East Side Slim
Basile – The Tinge – Sweetspot, 2007
Basile is a New England-based teacher, fiction author
and cornet (trumpet variant) player, who spent many
years as a member of Roomful of Blues. He has also
worked with Joe Turner and Red Prysock. While he
might have exited from Roomful back in the 1970s,
he never really quit playing with members of the
band, and Duke Robillard has been a good friend
and songwriting partner for years. Al has released
several fine solo records over the years, the last
several on his own Sweetspot label, and most of
them have utilized past and present members of Roomful
of Blues – especially Duke Robillard. Each
of Al’s Sweetspot albums has had a stylistic
theme of sorts. His last CD, Groovin’ in the
Mood Room, featured a small-combo Memphis soul/R&B
feel, Blue Ink was his most bluesy, Red Breath mined
the big-band era vibe of players such as Cootie
Williams, and The Tinge has a jazzy theme (of sorts.)
The theme here is The Tinge itself – based
on the Spanish Tinge, which is a rhythmic pattern
that eventually led to the invention of jazz (see
the liner notes for an expanded explanation.) Basile
possesses a Master’s Degree in creative writing,
which is put to good use in his crafty lyrics and
in the paragraph or two that he writes about each
song, found in the liner notes to the CD.
Songs: (all songs by Al Basile)
The musicians used on this CD deserve at least a
quick shout-out. Of course Al Basile is singing
and playing cornet. The incomparable Duke Robillard
is on all guitars, and produced the album as well.
Longtime Robillard cohorts Marty Ballou and Mark
Teixeira are on bass and drums, respectively. Mr.
Bruce Katz is providing the stunning organ and piano
sounds, and the saxophone section consists of Rich
Lataille and Doug “Mr. Low” James. Recognize
any connections to Roomful of Blues? If the answer
is yes, then good for you! If the answer is no,
then shame on you…
1. Go Back Home to the Blues
--The leadoff track to the CD, this one swings along
very nicely. It sets the tone to the entire CD,
with its uptown-feel, jazzy-swing and bluesy-rhythms.
Basile and Robillard both play great, tight solos
here. Not too many folks record music like this
anymore, and that’s a real shame. However,
you can certainly enjoy this!
2. Just Wait and See
--This track kind of reminds me of what might occur
if you crossed B.B. King with Tower Of Power. It’s
bluesy but not blues, jazzy but not jazz, really
more uptown R&B with a bluesy base. It’s
a very nice song, with a great late-night feel.
Bruce Katz and Duke Robillard both add much to the
3. Airlift My Heart
--This is a slow love song, or rather a falling
out of love song. Thankfully it is not maudlin,
as some of these sorts of tunes can be. It has a
vaguely New Orleans funereal feel to the beat (a
slow tinge?), and Al’s use of a muted (bathroom
plunger) cornet adds greatly to the atmospheric
vibe of the song.
4. Not the Wrong Woman
--Ah, this is nice… Bruce Katz is laying down
some very fine piano lines, with the sax section
sliding in and out of the proceedings. This tune
is all groove and feel, riding along on the cool
rhythms set up by “walking” acoustic
bass and cymbal work.
5. Can I Trust You with a Kiss?
--To me, this sounds like a lost ‘60s-era
Muscle Shoals mid-tempo soul tune – not quite
a weeping ballad, but definitely slow and sensual.
Katz’ organ work is very much in the Muscle
Shoals/Memphis vein here. The entire cut just reminds
you of how good that music was (and still is!)
6. Give Me the Rainbow
--This song is in the style of the old jazz standards.
It has a beautiful melody, the lyric is important
and is well delivered in a crooning style, and each
of the soloists plays a concise and well thought-out
piece that fits into the song’s overall melody.
7. Too Slow
--This is soulful R&B, stylistically similar
to some of Ray Charles’ work just before he
moved heavily into his countrified material. The
cut is very bluesy, and Basile sings it in a gruffer
voice than he uses for many of the CD’s other
songs. Al mentions in his notes to this song that
the feel was inspired by Eddie “Cleanhead”
Vinson, and that Duke Robillard and Doug James helped
to give this a definite old Roomful sound. It’s
all true, folks. This tune is one of East Side Slim’s
favorite songs on the CD.
8. While We’re Dancing
--The title says it all. The song is an ode to the
days when couples wanted to touch while dancing,
holding hands and touching a shoulder or back, feeling
the breath and body-heat from their partner, maybe
even getting lost in the moment. It’s a tender
song with a pretty melody.
9. Daddy Got a Problem
--Al roughens it up a bit on this track, playing
an introduction featuring some nice growling cornet.
This is another bluesy R&B number, this time
with a modified shuffle beat. Duke Robillard and
Bruce Katz both weigh in with very cool, very concise
solos, as does Basile on his cornet. If all was
fair in radio land today (and it hasn’t been
for decades) this cut could very well have been
She’s in Love with Losing
--This is a melancholy R&B tune with some nice
work on the Wurlitzer from Bruce Katz. Bruce is
one of my favorite keyboard players, and I have
yet to catch one of his appearances at B.B.’s
Jazz, Blues & Soups here in St. Louis. Well,
that’s my loss, and yours, if you haven’t
caught his show either.
You’re Still Right
--This is one of the more bluesy tunes on the CD.
Duke is playing some Delta-inspired guitar licks
throughout the tune, and Bruce is laying down some
barrelhousin’ piano lines. This song is much
grungier than anything else on the CD, and it helps
to give the album a little more bite.
Losing My Cool
--This tune is very “cool”, pun fully
intended. This one dips once more into the Memphis/Muscle
Shoals soul bag, and does a nice job of capturing
the feel of that era without being simply a carbon
copy of that music. It’s very heavy on organ,
but not in-your-face with it, and Duke is comping
along with style.
Strawberries and Cream
--This is the one song on the CD which I didn’t
care for very much. For me, the tune is just a little
too cloying. That’s just my personal taste,
and should not dissuade you from enjoying the song
– different strokes for different folks.
The Tinge is a fine piece
of work from Al Basile and his cohorts. Al’s
voice fits the material well, and his cornet playing
is a real treat. It’s a nice change of pace
to hear cornet/trumpet played in the styles heard
here (which span the history of blues, soul, and
small-combo jazz), especially when Al uses various
mutes and growl effects. It speaks to how well respected
Basile is in New England musical circles when you
peruse the names of the band members used to record
this CD. The boys achieve a ‘70s-era Roomful
of Blues sound and the addition of Bruce Katz on
keys (who almost steals the show – as he usually
does) makes it all even better. The CD was produced
by Duke Robillard, who seems to have an instinctual
feel, and unabashed love, for swinging jazz and
blues, and for all the styles of music represented
by the songs on this CD. This is definitely one
of those sneak-up-on-you albums, meaning each time
you listen to it you will like it more. I’m
going to give this CD, The Tinge, an STLBluesometer
rating of 3.50 - if you have a real love of pre-bebop
jazz styles you’ll rate this one even higher.
- aka "East