Stony Plain Records
Guitarist Duke Robillard founded “Roomful of Blues” in 1967. Although Robillard left them in 1979 he started the band that Count Basie once called “the hottest blues band I’ve ever heard”. Since 1992 he has performed as The Duke Robillard Band accumulating 22 Blues Music Award nominations; and winning six times including four as Best Instrumentalist – Guitar. Between 1985 and 2019 Robillard released thirty-four albums, the last being 2019’s “Ear Worms”. Besides recording with “Roomful” and his own band, Robillard has also recorded albums with The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Herb Ellis, Joe Beard, Jay McShann, Ruth Brown, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmy Witherspoon, Pinetop Perkins, Billy Boy Arnold, Joe Louis Walker, Bob Dylan, and countless others; and that doesn’t include his production credits.
The Duke Robillard Band currently includes Producer Robillard, guitar and vocals; Bruce Bears, piano and Hammond organ; Mark Teixeira or Marty Richards, drums; and either Jesse Williams or Marty Ballou, acoustic and electric bass. Two different horn sections are featured including the original all saxophone Roomful of Blues Horns with Rich Lataille, Greg Piccolo and Doug “Mr. Low” James. One track features another horn section including Al Basile and Sax Gordon. Guests include vocalists Chris Cote and Michelle Willson; pianists Bob Welsh and Mark “Mr. B” Braun; and harp player Mark Hummel.
The Grammy nominated Robillard isn’t only a blues guitar master but also a historian and scholar of blues and jazz, ballads and standards. He declares his song selection to be straight-ahead ‘50’s style blues and R n’ B perfect for this reunion. He chose the opener Ike Turner’s “Do You Mean It” first recorded by Ike Turner & His Kings of Rhythm in the early 1950’s. Featured are the Roomful horns, Robillard on guitar channeling Turner, Bears’ piano, and the powerful vocal of Boston’s Chris Cote. Vocalist Cote is featured again on “What Can I Do” written and recorded by Roy Milton in 1955; and on “You Don’t Know What You’re Doin’” recorded by T-Bone Walker’s nephew, R.S. Rankin, in 1969.
The other guest vocalist is among my favorites. Between 1994 and 2001 Michelle “Evil Gal” Willison recorded four albums for the Bullseye Blues Record label. Her last album was 2013’s live “Fortune Cookie”. Willson wraps her gorgeous pipes around “You Played On My Piano” first recorded by Helen Humes in 1952.
Producer Robillard steps upfront to take the vocal on “No Time”, written and first recorded by him on his 1997 album “Dangerous Place”, featured are Hummel on harmonica, and Welch on piano. Robillard also takes the lead on Alvin K. King’s “Everybody Ain’t Your Friend” recorded in 1968; and on another original “Give Me All The Love You Got”. All of the above feature the saxophones of Lataille, Piccolo and James. Robillard also sings on “Ain’t Gonna Do It” with a different band including horn players Basile and Gordon; the rhythm section of bassist Ballou, and drummer Richards; and the marvelous piano of “Mr. B”.
This blues party wouldn’t be complete without some instrumentals. Guitarist Robillard and the Roomful horns workout on 1959’s danceable “Rock Alley” from Lefty Bates and His Orchestra; and on another original, the closer “Just Chillin’”, featuring Bears on the B-3.
Robillard continues to make superlative recordings. Blues Bash! Is among his finest.