304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
I first came across Duke Robillard some years back when I bought a guitar instruction DVD for blues, jazz and swing presented by the man himself. There’s a lot of self-appointed titles in the jazz and blues world and I guess you have to be either pretty good or massively overconfident to adopt a noble moniker. The Duke is, rest assured, a supreme stylist on the guitar; never mind Duke, if he’s not the King of the blues, he’s definitely a member of the royal family. I was struck back then by his friendly and informative teaching style, not to mention that every sequence of notes he played was superb. I hadn’t realised (even though I had the cassette of the album he was on – wipe away those nostalgic tears for your C60s and C90s!) that he had a stint with one of my favourite bands, the “Fabulous Thunderbirds”. Of course, once you find a good thing you often discover that the artist has a stack of albums available, which is certainly the case for the Duke. His name is a guarantee of quality and musical excellence. On one of his albums (don’t make me hunt it out!) he has a track where he plays in the style of various legendary blues guitarists and demonstrates his vast knowledge and understanding of the genre as he skilfully slips between styles with every key change, like a professor of the blues providing a masterclass. He’s been around for long enough to have seen most of the greats at close hand and has, over time, taken on the role of the grand old man of this particular section of the musical universe.
So, what he up to on his latest offering? He’s described “Blues Bash” as “just a good listening or dancing record like the blues records I bought when I was a kid. I wanted the material to be simple, straight-ahead ‘50s style blues and R&B… basically it’s a blues party album.” That’s just what it is, jumping, swinging jazz-infused blues. If you were able to get all the musicians together that played on the album to play the songs live, it definitely would be one amazing party. The recordings feature two cookin’ horn sections, one featuring members from former band “Roomful of Blues”. You just can’t beat a horn section that locks together as tight as anything and the brass shines straight away on opening track “Do You Mean it”, which blasts off like a 50s Sputnik. The Duke has a very decent voice for this type of music but the opener features guest vocalist Chris Cote, who also does the honours on a couple of other tracks to add some vocal diversity, which is added to further with a guest appearance from swing singer Michelle Willson, who tears up “You Played On My Piano” (a track full of innuendo), a cover of the Helen Hume song released in 1952.
Apart from the modern hi-fi quality of the recording, the music sounds like it could have been recorded in the same year. It’s not the guitar style as such but the overall feel of the music which sounds like the joyous sensation you get when you put on a BB King album from the 50s. It sounds like everyone is having a good time and the combination of the horns and the stinging, thin guitar lines is just magic. There are a number of keyboard players on the album and there is an abundance of fluid boogie-woogie piano throughout, none more so than on Smiley Lewis’ “Ain’t Gonna Do It” courtesy of one Mark ‘Mr. B.’ Braun, which rattles along with all the fun of a theme park runaway train. The 50s is clearly the source period, with swinging’ versions of T-Bone Walker’s 1953 song “You Don’t Know What You’re Doing”, Roy Milton’s “What Can I Do”, a release on Speciality records from 1955 and Lefty “Guitar” Bates’ “Rock Alley” from 1959, not obvious cuts from the era I would say, but all minor classics. Like a lot of things in life, you don’t realise their value until they’re gone. Like the long-gone original artists celebrated here, music of this collective excellence may not always be there to enjoy, so grab a copy and bop around to your inner hep cat while you still can!
Bluesdoodles rating: Stupendous – A MUST for your collection (if you haven’t come across Duke Robillard before, otherwise a Wonderful addition to your Duke B collection)
Do You Mean It – feat: Chris Cote (Ike Turner)
No Time (Duke Robillard)
What Can I Do – feat: Chris Cote (Roy Milton)
Everybody Ain’t Your Friend (Al K. King)
Rock Alley (William H.Bate)
You Played On My Piano – feat: Michelle Willson (Cy Coben)
Ain’t Gonna Do It (Dave Bartholomew)
You Don’t Know What You’re Doin’ – feat: Chris Cote (Ace Adams)
Give Me All The Love You Got (Duke Robillard)
Just Chillin’ (Duke Robillard)
Duke Robillard – Guitar and vocals tracks 2,4,7 and 9
Bruce Bears – Piano and Hammond Organ
Mark Teixeira – Drums
Jesse Williams – Acoustic and Electric Bass
Marty Ballou – Acoustic and Electric Bass
Greg Piccolo – Tenor Sax
Rich Lataille – Alto and Tenor Sax
Doug James – Baritone Sax
Chris Cote – Vocal tracks 1,3 and 8
Michelle Willson – Vocal track 6
Mark Hummel – Acoustic Harmonica (No Time)
Robert Welch – Piano (No Time)
Mark Bruan (Piano), Marty Richards (drums), Marty Ballou (acoustic bass), Al Basile (cornet), Sax Gordon (tenor & baritone Sax) on Ain’t Gonna Do It