Kofi Burbridge, 1961-2019

Musician Kofi Burbridge died on Friday, Feb. 15, the same day that the Tedeschi Trucks Band, for whom Burbridge played flute and keyboards since its founding in 2010, released its new album Signs. Burbridge, who was 57, suffered a massive heart attack in 2017, requiring valve repair and replacement of his aorta. He underwent further treatment related to his cardiac issues in early January, and the band announced a temporary replacement for him for its then-upcoming tour. Sadly, six weeks later Kofi passed. The band was playing a show in Burbridge’s onetime home of Washington DC the night of his death, during which Susan Tedeschi passed on the news to the audience.

Kofi was born in the Bronx in 1961; his family moved to DC two years later. He and his younger brother Oteil took up a variety of musical instruments at an early age – Oteil settling on drums and bass, Kofi on keyboards and flute. A 1981 graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Kofi played in various Southeastern bands before moving to Atlanta with Oteil in the mid ‘80s. It was there that the brothers formed a group called Knee-Deep with drummer Jeff Sipe, and were taken under the wing of Bruce Hampton. Sipe (under the absurd pseudonym Apt. Q-258) and Oteil were members of the original incarnation of Hampton’s Aquarium Rescue Unit band; after a stint with After 7, Kofi joined the ARU in 1993, by which time Hampton had departed for other explorations. Kofi plays on their 1994 studio album In a Perfect World and its follow-up, The Calling, and contributed to the songwriting.

In 1999, Kofi replaced Bill McKay in The Derek Trucks Band, which also included fellow Atlanta musicians, drummer Yonrico Scott and bassist Todd Smallie. Singer and guitarist Susan Tedeschi would often contribute to the DTB’s recordings, and in December 2001 she and Trucks married. Trucks and Tedeschi soon formed their own group, Soul Stew Revival, in which Kofi played. By 2010, Trucks and Tedeschi merged their own separate bands, and continued the Soul Stew Revival concept in the Tedeschi Trucks Band, which to date has released four studio and two live albums. Along with Kofi, Oteil was an original member of TTB, but left in 2012.

Kofi Burbridge also played in Butch Truck’s short-lived group Frogwings alongside Derek Trucks (Butch’s nephew), Oteil, onetime ARU guitarist Jimmy Herring (currently with Widespread Panic), Edwin McCain and John Popper (who replaced McCain in a later version of the band), and occasionally guested with the Allman Brothers Band, of which Oteil was a longtime latter-day member. More recently, Kofi played on Oteil’s 2017 solo album Water in the Desert, which was produced by David Ryan Harris.