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The Duke Robillard Jazz Trio: Wobble Walkin'

Dan Bilawsky By

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Guitarist Duke Robillard may be widely praised for his blues bona fides, but calling him a blues guitarist is a bit limiting. While his work with Roomful of Blues and his stint with the Fabulous Thunderbirds have earned him a large fan base and some well-deserved respect in the blues and guitar communities, he's proven himself equally conversant in jazz and elsewhere. Blues music remains his bread and butter, but albums like After Hours Swing Session (Rounder, 1990), Conversations In Swing Guitar (Stony Plain, 1999), and A Swingin Session With Duke Robillard (Stony Plain, 2008) have marked him as a unique jazz stylist with an innate sense of musicality.

Wobble Walkin' can be added under the "Jazz-centered Releases" heading in Robillard's discography, but it retains the essence of his favored style. One could no sooner remove stripes from a zebra than remove the blues from the guitar work of Duke Robillard. Every chord and line that emanates from his being is connected to the world of the blues, regardless of the material, and his delivery could serve as the very definition of unassuming musical sophistication.

Robillard is joined by two of his blues band brethren—bassist Brad Hallen and drummer Mark Teixeira—on a program that favors standards and Robillard originals. While neither sideman commands the same attention as a soloist that Robillard does, they both have plenty to offer. Hallen's walking lines help to establish a solid foundation, his melodic gifts are put to good use ("Things Ain't What They Used To Be"), and his solos are enjoyable and understated. Teixeira's brushwork is crisp and swinging, his snare drum-focused soloing is articulate and absorbing ("Skippy's Dream"), and his drumming is the rhythmic fuel that powers the band during their brighter performances ("Hi-Heel Sneakers" and "Back Home Again, In Indiana").

While Robillard shares the spotlight with his trio mates, trading solos or taking a backseat while they step forward, he's the one to watch throughout. He imprints his distinctive sound onto every song, whether dishing out the melody on an original that sounds like it could be a late-period Wes Montgomery tune ("Sunday Mornin'") or backing vocalist Mickey Freeman ("Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You"). His solos are like musical jewels of inevitability, possessing a shape and arc that almost seem predestined due to their absolute rightness, and they possess an outer affability that elevates the music. Wobble Walkin' is that rare album that wins without the intent to wow. This is just terrific, take-it-as-it-comes music that confirms Robillard's place among the great guitarists operating today.

Track Listing: Wobble Walkin'; I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me; They Can't Take That Away From Me; Sunday Mornin; Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You; Skippy's Dream; All Of Me; Things Ain't What They Used To Be; You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To; Hi-Heel Sneakers; If I Had You; Back Home Again, In Indiana; Jesse's Blues.

Personnel: Duke Robillard: guitar; Brad Hallen: acoustic bass; Mark Teixeira: drums; Mickey Freeman: vocals (5).

Title: Wobble Walkin' | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Blue Duchess


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