East Side Slim
Duke Robillard – A Swingin' Session With Duke
Robillard – Stony Plain Records, 2008
is not much to say that has not already been written
about Mr. Duke Robillard. He is a phenomenally prolific
recording artist and gifted guitarist who is not
tied down to specific genres, although he is likely
most commonly associated by most listeners with
swinging blues. Duke also stays very busy producing
projects by other artists (often in Duke's Mood
Room), as well as playing on other artists' projects
as a sideman.
Robillard was a founding member of Roomful of Blues
(Roomful), but has been gone from that gig now for
a much longer period of time than he was actually
in the band. He was with Roomful for about 13 years
(1967 to around 1980), but has been doing his own
thing now apart from Roomful for almost 30 years.
Thirty years since Duke departed from Roomful…can
you believe that? Even though he has been working
outside of Roomful for the majority of his career,
he has never stopped recording with current and
former Roomful players. This is especially true
of the CD being reviewed here, as Duke has utilized
the skills of many of New England's top blues/jazz
players. Piano and organ work is provided by Bruce
Katz, saxophones courtesy of Doug "Mr. Low"
James, Sax Gordon Beadle and Scott Hamilton, trombone
by Carl Querfurth, trumpet by Dave Ballou, cornet
from Al Basile, drums via Mark Teixeira, acoustic
bass from Marty Ballou, Jessie Williams and John
Packer, and additional guitar from Paul Kolesnikow.
On this CD Robillard recorded many of his favorite
swinging bluesy jazz songs, with many of the tunes
dating from the 1920s and 1930s. Basically, everything
on here swings like crazy due in no small part to
the rhythm sections used on the album. While not
as obvious to listeners as the melody players, the
drummer and bass players sound dead solid perfect
throughout the course of the album, utilizing only
acoustic upright bass, lots of brushed drum work,
and always driving the swing.
Songs: (songwriters listed in parenthesis)
1. Deed I Do – (Walter Hirsch, Fred
--The CD opens with a swingin' (the last time I'll
use that word, as every single song on this CD swings)
mid-tempo love song. Duke's slightly gruff voice
fits this tune well, making the lyric sound very
heartfelt. The song is not maudlin or syrupy, but
rather is a joyous romp, making it sound like the
singer is actually in love. Love's a happy feeling,
right? Well, it should be. All East Side Slim knows
is that when he's smitten with a special woman he
feels like this song sounds, and it sound good!
2. The Lonesome Road – (Traditional
/ Public Domain; although I have seen references
to Nathaniel Shilkret & Gene Austin having written
it in 1927)
--Wow…the introduction to the tune is worth
the cost of the entire CD in my opinion. It's a
very slow, mournful sounding muted horn passage
playing over brushed drums, acoustic bass and arch-top
guitar. The liner notes are quite descriptive; if
they are correct this is a muted trombone, although
it sounds like muted trumpet/cornet. No matter,
it sounds phenomenal. At the 1:50 mark, the tune
is sent into a completely different arrangement.
It turns into an up-tempo sax- and organ-driven
track, as bright and cheerful and the intro was
mournful. Robillard makes sure to place some nice
solo time in here as well. Could this be Duke's
version of a New Orleans funeral march and second
line party? Maybe so.
3. Them That Got – (Ray Charles)
--Listen to the horns on this tune, folks; they
sound mighty fine. The piano work of Bruce Katz
is fantastic, never overplayed, but so expressive.
The man is a master; simply one of the best. Sax
Beadle lays oh-so-cool baritone sax on us, too (I
really dig that horn!).
4. Just Because – (Bob Shelton, Joe
Shelton, Sydney Robin)
--This is an up-tempo cut, and is one of the bluesier
sounding tunes on the CD, even when it goes off
into Latin territory just prior to and during the
fade out. This one has a small amount of lyrics,
but they are mostly in place to help set the melody.
Otherwise, it's a bluesy hot-jazz number allowing
space for the musicians to strut their stuff.
5. Meet Me At No Special Place – (J.
Russel Robinson, Arthur Terker)
--This is a mid-tempo number, once again featuring
Bruce Katz' piano work. Longtime Robillard musical
cohort Al Basile takes the tune out with a very
nice muted cornet solo.
6. Red Dog – (Duke Robillard)
--This is the 1st of 2 Robillard-written instrumental
tracks placed on this album. This is a long cut,
running almost 7 minutes in length. Needless to
say, most everyone gets plenty of space to play,
and Duke plays some amazing guitar here. Big, rich
jazz chords, as well as clever single-note runs
abound. Katz moves back to organ on this tune, and
the World is a happy place for that. Not because
his piano work is poor, because it's fantastic,
but because his organ work is HOT! Sax Beadle works
his usually stellar magic on tenor sax, and Carl
Querfurth hits us with some stunning work on 'bone.
Carl Q can flat out play that bone! Not to be left
out, "Mr. Low" displays his talents with
a super run on his bari sax. And not to forget the
rhythm section, they keep the entire ship upright
while everyone soloed; send some love to the rhythm
7. They Raided The Joint – (Oran ”Hot
Lips" Page, Joe Eldridge, Aristine Jackson)
--This is track is deeply rooted in the blues, but
has been taken uptown, even if the lyrics are still
in the gutter, or more properly, the still. This
one's a drinking tune – "stretched out
in the corner…high as I could be". Listen
closely to the horns on this tune, to how great
they sound playing together.
8. When Your Lover Has Gone – (Einer
--This one's a little slow, is pretty much a straight
jazz tune and is definitely more sentimental. It
contains some pretty trombone and tenor sax work,
and it presents a fine opportunity to hear how well
the bass player(s) and drummer work this material.
9. The Song Is Ended – (Irving Berlin)
--A little bit of "sameness" enters the
picture with this tune, as the tempo and rhythm
of the track is not too different from track #9.
There is a Latin-inspired bridge, but it's very
short; only a few seconds long. This is a fine tune,
just a little too similar to the preceding song.
Swinging With Lucy Mae – (Duke Robillard)
--This is the 2nd of Duke's self-penned instrumental
cuts found on the album. It might have been a good
idea to place it between tracks 8 and 9, but no
matter. This song is another long cut, running 6
½ minutes. Once again the participants get
to stretch out, which is especially beneficial to
Bruce Katz' organ work. He takes the listener on
a fine ride; no clunkers here. Duke also takes advantage
of the chance to stretch out, as he lays some very
nice guitar work on us. The cut is primarily focused
on Duke's guitar playing and Bruce's organ work,
and there are the usual terrific horn-charts thrown
in occasionally for good measure.
effort from Duke Robillard and his friends, "A
Swingin' Session With Duke Robillard", definitely
walks along the jazzier side of the blues spectrum,
and it swings like crazy throughout. This project
is yet another fine album in a long line of fine albums
released by Duke. The tracks feature interesting and
enjoyable arrangements, injecting the songs (many
of which were written in the 1920s) with new life
for the modern listener. The talent roster used on
the CD is comprised of only A-list musicians, and
the fact that they have all been playing with each
other over the years makes this CD sound very organic
and natural. Also, if you like great horn charts and
solos, the music on this album should be absolutely
satisfying to you. East Side Slim is assigning an
STLBluesometer rating of 4.00 to "A Swingin'
Session With Duke Robillard.
Howland - aka
"East Side Slim"