Skip Heller: Fakebook (2004)
When you read that youngblood guitarist Skip Heller has played with a wide range of musicians, it means a wide range of musicians – Todd Rundgren to Yma Sumac to Big Jay McNeely to Susanna Hoffs to NRBQ and more.
On Fakebook , Heller leads John Wicks on drums, Robert Drasnin on flute, clarinet, and alto sax, guest trumpeter Jay Roulston, and organ player Joe Doria (who sounds like he pulls double duty on keyboard bass) through a set of Heller’s favorite songs by other artists, worked out on the road and then recorded in a single afternoon in Doria’s basement. “I chose these because each one had something personal about it,” Heller reflects, “whether it was because the composer influenced me so deeply or because a song was part of a place or time I remembered.”
Right from the opener, the Grant Green/Big John Patton guitar-organ jam “The Yodel,” where clarinet mixes in the sound of real old school jazz, Heller the bandleader orchestrates an old-fashioned throwdown. Along with the soul-jazz classic “Cold Duck Time,” a showcase for all the soloists but especially Drasnin on alto and Roulson, it captures the spirit of this set.
Heller the guitarist shines in his Green-ish take on “Never Can Say Goodbye,” his tender and respectful solo guitar “Monk’s Mood,” and “Sophisticated Savage,” where his melodic lines flow long yet remain sharp and tangy blue, like another guitarist who shares Heller’s Philadelphia birthplace, Pat Martino.
Joel Dorn, the power behind Hyena Records who produced the original “Cold Duck Time” on the landmark Eddie Harris/Les McCann Swiss Movement set, writes in these liner notes: “This one almost coulda come out on Prestige in the '60s. But it ain’t old music, it’s brand new, and Skip’s thread in the great American tapestry.” No arguments here.
Track Listing: The Yodel; Sophisticated Savage; Never Can Say Goodbye; Chinatown; Arriverderci, Roma; Monk's Mood; Cold Duck Time; Sometimes It Snows in April; (Just) Squeeze Me; Powerhouse; The Man in Me
Personnel: Skip Heller: guitar; Robert Drasnin: clarinet, alto sax, flute; John Wicks: drums, percussion; Joe Doria: organ; Jay Roulston: trumpet; Stan Ridgway: harmonica, vocal