Duke Robillard

Duke Robillard
A Swingin’ Session With Duke Robillard

Stony Plain Records SPCD 1331

By Art Tipaldi
August 2008

Visit artist page

In the past few years, Duke Robillard has focused on releasing records that have satisfied his blue moods. With A Swingin’ Session, Robillard turns up the volume on his long-standing affinity for the big band swing style of the 1930s and 1940s.

Remember, it was the hypnotic effect of that era’s jazz that first caught Duke’s ear and led to the formation of Roomful of Blues in the late 1960s. And remember that throughout his vast recording catalogue, Duke has recorded that style on two other records: Conversations in Swing Guitar with Herb Ellis, also on Stony Plain; his beautiful After Hours Swing Session in 1992, on Rounder, along with his work with Gerry Beaudoin and Jay Geils on their Guitar Summit records. In fact, anyone who sees Robillard live can expect a healthy dose of jazz with Duke’s blues.

Recorded in Duke’s Mood Room, the record features a familiar cast of players. The guest list reads like a who’s who of area musicians.

Backed by his usual rhythm section of Mark Teixeria on percussion and Marty Ballou on bass, the music swings with Doug James and Gordon Beadle sharing tenor and baritone sax work; with Scott Hamilton, Carl Querfurth and Al Basile rounding out the horn section; Bruce Katz on keyboards; and guitarist Paul Kolesnikow strumming acoustic archtop.

Using the entire band as his color palette, Robillard paints one timeless masterpiece after another. For songs, he opened the American songbook and chose eight pieces that reflect those days bygone.

“Deed I Do” starts the record with Katz’s rich organ work, Kolesnikow’s strumming 4X4 time with Teixeria’s cymbals, and Hamilton’s throaty tenor - all held by Duke’s bold guitar.

The take on the traditional “The Lonesome Road” starts with a lazy, muted horn to the break when Duke and Sax Gordon throw the roadster into overdrive. This ain’t your parents’ melancholy version we all grew up humming - this bounces all over the road as if the roadster blew its shocks.

Ray Charles’ obscure “Them That Got” features Duke jivin’ Charles’ style as Katz and Ballou swing piano and bass respectively. Add Doug James’ breathy tenor solo and this takes Charles’ genius down a very different path.

“Meet Me At No Special Place,” made famous by Nat King Cole, has Duke vocalizing this singer’s late night request. Basile’s assertive cornet solo adds to the aura of the song’s theme.

“They Raided The Joint” stays in that after-hours vein. Picture yourself in some Kansas City saloon as Basie, Parker and McShann are passin’ solos around the stage. James’ tenor solo plays tag with Katz’s roller coaster piano, until Duke steps forward to put his exclamation point on the tune.

Because these players all come from similar musical places, their track, “When You r Lover has Gone,” might be the centerpiece of the record. Each member swoops off the charts and gently colors the canvas. From there, Duke trades off his voice with Basile’s muted cornet on Irving Berlin’s “The Song Is Ended.”

In addition, Duke has written two instrumentals that spotlight his deep knowledge and life’s study of that period. “Red Dog” is that classic jazz tune where after emphasizing the head, Duke and the band splash bright colors on the canvas. Robillard’s octave-soloing leads into Katz’s strapping organ. Especially noteworthy is Querfurth’s trombone blow, and the sexy moans of Beadle’s tenor.

The disc ends with Robillard’s other original, “Swinging With Lucy Mae.” This moderate tempo foot-tapper again has Duke and the ensemble effortlessly passing solos from player to player as smartly as the Celtics against a zone defense.

Because Duke and this band have played together off and on for decades in various bands, the chemistry throughout paints a stunning picture of the American songbook.



<- back to Features