Home of the Live Music Calendar Follow STLBlues on Twitter Follow STLBlues on Facebook Home of the Live Music Calendar Live Music Is Better, Book It Here!! Live music is better, book yours now!
Duke Robillard – A Swingin' Session With Duke Robillard
East Side SlimBy East Side Slim

Duke Robillard – A Swingin' Session With Duke Robillard
Duke Robillard – A Swingin' Session With Duke Robillard – Stony Plain Records, 2008

There 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.

The Songs: (songwriters listed in parenthesis)

1. Deed I Do – (Walter Hirsch, Fred Rose)
--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 section!

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 Aaron Swan)
--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.

10. 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.

The Verdict:

This 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.

Lee Howland - aka "East Side Slim"
The STLBluesometer

Enjoy our Blues reviews
STLBlues CD Reviews :: By band/artist first name
St. Louis based bands & musicians
More National Bands
 Live Music Calendar | Send Blues News | © STLBlues 2000 | Privacy Policy