Duke Robillard’s latest CD is called, appropriately, A Swingin' Session with Duke Robillard. On this particular disc it’s all about swing and Duke has brought a whole party of friends with him for the ride. With over three decades of musical success behind him, Duke Robillard has always dabbled in many different genres and sees no problem leaping nimbly from one to another, sometimes in mid stride. He also comments on the liner notes – and I find this hugely interesting – that he believes there is “a very thin line between what was originally called jazz and the blues.” Robillard goes on to say that, like Duke Ellington, he regards the entire band as an instrument and because of this, chooses his musical colleagues with great care. Only those with a solid background and knowledge in blues, R&B and jazz need apply and when you run down the list of names on this cd, it’s a pretty impressive alumni.
Highlights for me include Scott Hamilton, Doug James (who was involved in Colin James’ Little Big Band 3) and the wildman “Sax” Gordon Beadle, who all take a turn infusing their own particular brand of sax appeal into the project whilst ace-keyboardist Bruce Katz plays with the speed of someone who has recently been set on fire.
One of my favourite tracks is The Lonesome Road which builds from a sleazy, measured opening to a musical free-for-all – I swear that Bruce Katz makes the organ actually growl at one point – while the saxophones step forward to deliver joyful, brawling runs at superhuman speed.
Robillard’s very own composition Red Dog is a sort of jazzy instrumental with a blues veneer. Tight, sophisticated and resplendent with opportunities for individual showcasing Red Dog highlights not only Duke’s guitarwork but the other players as well.
They Raided the Joint is a swinging, swaggering anthem perfect for Duke’s vocals and once more finds him “over in the corner just as high as I could be” which for some reason amuses me each time he says it. This tune is another example of everyone on the record, clearly, having a really good time and not caring who knows it.
For sure, A Swingin’ Session is definitely not like a Duke Robillard blues record, although the blues influence is never far away; however, this is not the same kind of record as the mighty Living with the Blues. But for those who fear that dangerous grey area between mellow and comatose – and I count myself amongst that number – I can assure you that Swingin’ Session never once strays into that forbidden zone on any of the tracks here. Listen to this cd a few times and you will be hooked for good.
When I was a small child, I used to take my mother’s hands and stand carefully on her slippers and we would dance around the room at top speed, in perfect sync – backward and forward, side to side, up and down – to whatever was playing at the time. Listening to this record somehow reminds me of that whole experience, the absolutely flawless sense of timing we had and also the bubbling up of sheer joy at how fun it was to go that fast and still be that good!
I somehow think that Duke and his band would understand just what I mean.
Buy A Swingin' Session with Duke Robillard