Since he arrived on the scene in the late '60s as founder of the groundbreaking Roomful of Blues, and subsequently in a thriving solo career that began more than three decades ago, Duke Robillard
has consistently exhibited boundless curiosity and undeniable panache, continually reinforcing his reputation as one of the planet's most innovative roots musicians. Robillard's journey has taken him in multiple directions, and Wobble Walkin'
, the debut release for his own Blue Duchess Records (blueduchessrecords.com
) is one of the most instantly gratifying entries in a discography that now numbers more than 30 titles.
On Wobble Walkin'
, the Duke Robillard Jazz Triofeaturing Duke on guitar with Brad Hallen and Mark Teixeira, both borrowed from Robillard's blues band, on bass and drums, respectivelypays its respects to both the venerable tradition of bluesy jazz guitar and the durable songcraft of Tin Pan Alley. Robillard has been down this road before, on albums such as 1986's Swing
, 1989's After Hours Swing Session,
1999's Conversations in Swing Guitar
with jazz guitar legend Herb Ellis and 2008's A Swingin Session with Duke Robillard
, but Wobble Walkin'
expands Robillard's musical universe even further. Wobble Walkin'
, a perfect marriage of then and nowan ageless sound brought up to date by forward-thinking musicians and recorded with state-of-the-art sonicssummons up a bygone era without managing to feel retro in the process.
The way I look at it, as long as you breathe your own life into the music, it's not old," says Robillard in the liner notes for Wobble Walkin'
. It's only a museum piece when it becomes a staid copy of something else. I just love playing great tunes."Wobble Walkin'
is all about great tunes, among them such cornerstones of the Great American Songbook as Cole Porter's You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," the Gershwins' They Can't That Away From Me" and Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You," made famous by the Nat King Cole Trio and sung here in a sultry fashion by a fellow Blue Duchess artist, jazz vocalist Mickey Freeman.
I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me" was an early Billie Holiday hit and the late icon is also one of several artists who popularized All of Me," given a jaunty, upbeat reading here by Duke and the guys. Back Home Again In Indiana" stretches back nearly a century, while Hi-Heel Sneakers" is of more recent vintage, first appearing on the Billboard
charts in 1964 and a staple of countless bands' set lists ever since.Wobble Walkin'
isn't only about revitalizing that which has come before, however. In fact, the title track, which leads off the album, is one of a handful of original compositions that prove that Duke Robillard cannot only play the standards with the best of them, but can also write a tune that feels like one.
Along with Duke's Wobble Walkin" and Mickey Freeman's Livin the Dream," this Spring Blue Duchess will release a tribute to the Great Bille Holiday by Legendary Tenor Saxophonist Scott Hamilton.
Here's a quick quiz: What do Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Jay McShann, Herb Ellis, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, John Hammond, Eddy Clearwater, Billy Boy Arnold, the late Jimmy Witherspoon, Dr. John, Maria Muldaur, Roomful of Blues, all have in common?
Answer: Duke Robillard Guitarist, Bandleader, Songwriter, Singer, Producer, Session musician, and a one-man cheering section for the blues, in all its forms and permutations. And every one of those names has shared recording studio space or stage time with a man who is a legend in the blues community. The Blues Music Awards (formerly W.C.Handy Awards) have named Duke Robillard Best Blues Guitarist" four years out of five (2000,2001,2003,2004) making him the second most honored guitarist for that award! He was also nominated in that category in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and again this year of 2012. He was also awarded the Best Traditional Male Blues Artist" in 2010 by the BMAs. Duke's Blues Music Award nominations now number over 20 since 1989!
In 2007 and again in 2010, Duke received a Grammy nomination for his Guitar Groove-a-rama" CD and Stomp the Blues Tonight" respectively. In 2007 Duke was also honored with the prestigious Rhode Island Pell Award for excellence in the arts" along with actress Olympia Dukakis, actor Bob Colonna, and R.I. Choreographer/Festival Ballet director Mihailo Misha" Djuric.The Pell award is named for Senator Claiborne Pell who help establish The National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities in 1965.Other awards over the last decade include three Canadian Maple Blues Awards in 2001, 2002, and 2003 for Best International Blues Artist," The Blues Foundation's Producer of the Year" award in 2004, The French Blues Association Album of the Year" award in 2002 (Living with the Blues) and Guitarist of the Year" awards in 1999 and 2002.
BB King himself has called Duke One of the great players," The Houston Post called him one of God's guitarists." And the New York Times says Robillard is a soloist of stunning force and originality." None of that goes to Robillard's head. He's still on the road constantly touring worldwide bringing his unique blend of all styles of blues, early R&B, Swing, Jazz and sometimes even dash of roots rock and roll to appreciative audiences with his incredible rhythm section of Bruce Bears on keys, Brad Hallen on bass and Mark Teixeira on drums.
Roomful of Blues, which Duke conceived in 1967 and served as their leader, vocalist, guitarist and songwriter until 1979, recorded two major label albums along the way with them. After a short stint with Robert Gordon, Duke recorded two albums with The Legendary Blues Band, a group consisting of some of Muddy Water's revered sidemen including Pinetop Perkins, Fuzz Jones, Willie Big Eyes Smith and Jerry Portnoy. Robillard then formed Duke Robillard and The Pleasure Kings recording several well-received blues oriented albums for Rounder Records in addition to a pair of swing era style classic recordings.
With a number of solo albums nearing 20 on Stony Plain alone, starting with the highly acclaimed Duke's Blues
, just as impressive have been the projects he has produced (and played on) for Stony Plain, including two albums with the late Jimmy Witherspoon, three with Kansas City piano king Jay McShann, comeback CDs for Billy Boy Arnold and Roscoe Gordon and a superb pair of albums of guitar duets with the jazz legend Herb Ellis. As if this catalogue was not enough, he has found time to share studio gigs with Bob Dylan (the Daniel Lenois-produced Time Out of Mind sessions), Ruth Brown, the late Johnny Adams, John Hammond, Pinetop Perkins, and Ronnie Earl, among many others.
As he enters the world of record company executive with partner Jesse A. Finkelstein, Duke Robillard is a man in command of a full range of creative talentsunique in the blues, and rare in the music industry as a whole. He is, in fact, a complete artist at the height of his power.