It’s audacious to call this Friday’s concert—billed as An Evening with Luther Dickinson, Rich Robinson, Ivan Neville, and Robert Randolph—as one of the best bills of the year. It’s only mid-January, and there are eleven and a half months left to go. Take into consideration, though, the Dickinson-led North Mississippi Osborne set at the recent Fireman’s Ball, Randolph’s crushing set at Jackson Hole Live, or better yet, the fact that this is a rare one-off collaboration of high-caliber musicians that have never shared the same stage as a unit. Don’t assume the typical concert experience, either. Much of the magic will be made on the spot, with reciprocating vibes determining the next variation.
“Shannon [McCormick, Programming Director at Center for the Arts] saw Southern Soul Assembly—which is JJ Grey, Marc Broussard, Anders Osborne and myself—which actually inspired this show we’re doing in Jackson Hole,” explained Dickinson. “So Shannon and I got to talking and he was like ‘Man, let’s do something like that,’ so we kept poking around to get the right lineup. I’ve played with all of the cats on this bill in different incarnations, but never together. So with this type of scene everybody takes turns playing their tunes, so different cats might fill-in or might not. It’s not like a full band.
“What I’ve found with Southern Soul Assembly is that you can practice and prepare and teach each other songs, but soon as the show gets going it all goes out the window (laughs). The domino effect sort of determines the flow of the show. You might think you know what your going to do, but once you have to follow the other guy and follow the mood, change the mood, react to the mood…it’s a fun interactive type of format. I try to stay in the moment. I don’t even like making setlists before the day of the show. It’s awkward to me to predetermine what the show’s going to be before you feel out how it’s going to roll—see what the venue is like, or what dinner was like, or what the crowd’s like.”
Dickinson has been extremely active outside of North Mississippi Allstars in recent years (whom earned a Grammy nomination in 2000), including a stint with The Black Crowes, The Word, the South Memphis String Band, and the other aforementioned projects. It’s his solo career, though, that has really come into focus as of late, including 2014’s “Rock ‘n Roll Blues” and his fifth studio album on deck for early next month, the double-LP “Blues & Ballads, A Folksinger’s Songbook: Volumes I & II.”
Guitarist/singer-songwriter Rich Robinson, of course, is the brother of Chris Robinson and founding member of The Black Crowes. Before and after the last Crowes breakup, Robinson has released solo albums. He took singing lessons, built a home studio, and his latest release, “The Ceaseless Sight” (2014), is described by David Fricke of Rolling Stone as “the bull’s-eye, so rich in textures and assured in the writing that it sounds like a true debut.”
Like Dickinson, keyboardist/vocalist Ivan Neville will be flying into Jackson fresh off of the boat, the 14th Annual Jam Cruise. Masterful pedal steel player and multi-instrumentalist Robert Randolph rounds out the group, days before touring the East coast later this month with his band. This could be one for the ages.
An Evening with Luther Dickinson, Rich Robinson, Ivan Neville, and Robert Randolph, 7 p.m. Friday at the Center Theater. $71-$81. JHCenterForTheArts.org, 733-1500.