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Music Review

Allman shines without his band

Gregg Allman (Photo by Steve Haines for The Boston Globe) Gregg Allman at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center in New Bedford.
By Scott McLennan
Globe Correspondent / January 18, 2011

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NEW BEDFORD — Proof that sometimes a band identity can swallow up even the best musicians came Saturday during Gregg Allman’s spry performance at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center.

After hearing a fan yell just once too many times for the song “Ramblin’ Man,’’ Allman good naturedly pointed out “that’s not mine’’ — as in, that song belongs to a guitarist the Allman Brothers Band fired 10 years ago. Allman went on to say, “Don’t worry, Bubba, we won’t let you down.’’

And Allman kept his word with a two-hour show that exhibited his broad range and deep talents.

At 63, and seven months removed from a liver transplant, Allman is scaling new peaks, evidenced by the power he brought to his Zeiterion show and the craft he applied to “Low Country Blues,’’ a solo album, his first since 1997, coming out today. (See review, Page 4.)

Allman wove five cuts from “Low Country Blues’’ into the show, reflecting different aspects of the man’s musical sensibilities. “I Can’t Be Satisfied’’ and “Rolling Stone’’ dug into earthy blues. “Just Another Rider’’ had a tough rock swagger. “Little by Little’’ was a Texan swing accented by guest harmonica player Mike Costello, and “Floating Bridge’’ was a haunting gospel blues.

Allman peppered those new tunes among selections from his other solo records, interesting covers, and reworkings of Allman Brothers Band staples. Guitarist Scott Sharrard, bassist Jerry Jemmott, drummer Steve Potts, saxophonist Jay Collins, keyboard player Bruce Katz, and singer and percussionist Floyd Miles (who sang lead on three numbers) stylishly maneuvered the blues, rock, and jazz turns Allman moved through.

Appearing relaxed and confident, Allman mainly stayed at his B3 organ, rising three times to play electric or acoustic guitar. A rich honeyed tone has overtaken the growl and grit of his singing. Allman has newfound strength in this freshened tone which he flexed best on a soul-stirring rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman.’’

Allman did straight takes of ABB staples “Don’t Leave Me Wonderin’ ’’ and “Melissa.’’ But he upended “Dreams,’’ “Whipping Post,’’ and “Statesboro Blues’’ all to good effect. With the Brothers, “Dreams’’ is a hungry ache; in the solo setting, the tune evokes gratitude and fortitude (and is musically driven by Collins’s superlative tenor playing). And watching Allman play electric guitar instead of his signature organ parts on a lean version of “Whipping Post’’ was proof enough that his vision goes past the borders of the band that bears his name.

Scott McLennan can be reached at smclennan1010@gmail.com.

GREGG ALLMAN

At: Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, Saturday