Duke Robillard

July 23, 2018 by ryontz in Blue Duchess 0 comments
Duke Robillard

Duke Robillard & Scott Hamilton
“Swingin’ Again”

From Noted Jazz Producer, Author, Historian and Critic Scott Yanow:

“Duke Robillard originally became well-known as the founder and leader of Roomful Of Blues (1967-79), his playing with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and his many projects in the blues world, but he has always had a love for swinging jazz. A friend of tenor-saxophonist Scott Hamilton since their early days, Robillard and Hamilton have often teamed up for memorable recordings. Their latest musical collaboration, Swingin’ Again, is being released by the Blue Duchess label and is arguably their finest joint effort.

Swingin’ Again has the two longtime associates joined by members of Duke Robillard’s band (pianist Bruce Bears, bassist Brad Hallen, and drummer Mark Teixeira) plus several notable guests: trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, pianist Tim Ray, and singers Sugar Ray Norica and Sunny Crownover. The results are as exciting and enjoyable as one would expect from these talented and versatile musicians.

Starting with “I Never Knew,” the program includes such classic standards as “I’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket” (taken as a ballad by Sugar Eye Norica before it becomes a cooker), “All I Do Is Dream Of You,” “Blue Lou,” “Pennies From Heaven,” and “You Can Depend On Me” (during which Norica recalls Jimmy Rushing). Also included is the obscure swinger “Never Mind,” the medium-tempo blues “Steady Daddy” (sung winningly by Sunny Crownover), an infectious “Esquire Bounce,” and “One O’Clock Jump.”

Robillard’s 1940s/’50s style swing guitar (inspired by Charlie Christian, Tiny Grimes, and other pacesetters of the era) is a perfect match for Hamilton’s warm and distinctive tenor on the vintage material. Pianist Bears makes the most of his solo space, and fine support is supplied throughout by Hallen and Teixeira.

Duke Robillard and Scott Hamilton often listened to recordings and jammed together in their early days in Rhode Island. Hamilton moved to New York in the mid-1970s where his mastery of swinging jazz made headlines. He was the first young world-class jazz artist in years to play early straight ahead jazz rather than fusion, avant-garde or bebop, and his arrival on the scene virtually launched the comeback of small group swing. Hamilton has been featured on dozens of rewarding albums since then.

Duke Robillard’s success with Roomful Of Blues, Bob Dylan, and on nearly 100 CDs made him a major name in the blues world but he was always eager to team up with his boyhood friend in swing settings. The guitarist was part of Hamilton’s Blues, Bop And Ballads (1999), Across The Tracks (2007), and Remembering Billie (2012) albums, while the tenor is on Robillard’s Swing (1986) and A Swinging Session (2008). Musical magic always occurs when they play together.

Swingin’ Again is certainly a very easy set to enjoy. It will appeal to Duke Robillard’s longtime fans (including those who loved his recordings with the late Jay Geils and Gerry Beaudoin in the New Guitar Summit) and listeners who treasure Scott Hamilton’s playing.”

From noted Jazz Producer, Author and Historian Bob Porter:

“The music here seems perfectly chosen. Swingin’ Again seems to tell the whole story in it’s title. We the listeners can only be grateful. Tell your friends.”


“Duke Robillard is no stranger to a prized Les Paul Gold Top, and with vocalist Sunny Crownover moves into the world of Paul and (Mary) Ford and uses the past to inspire the future here. This really is a swinging affair, and every one of the 16 songs zaps the heart with deep feeling and wild fun. (Duke) has never played better. Robillard manages to take listeners to a better place. In Sunny Crownover he has the perfect partner, because she is thankfully incapable of oversinging taking a page out of the Mary Ford playbook…TALES FROM THE TIKI LOUNGE will take you to a place where everyone looks wonderful under the soft lights. Set ’em up again.”
-Sonic Boomers

“Grammy-nominated blues guitarist Duke Robillard and vocalist Sunny Crownover have joined forces again for the enchanting TALES FROM THE TIKI LOUNGE. With three superb albums to their credit… it’s clear that Robillard and Crownover were meant to make music together. The duo soars Robillard’s exquisite guitar work both complements, and is complemented by, Crownover’s silky smooth singing voice. This one’s an old-school delight, folks.”
– The Daily News (Philadelphia)

“Accomplished veteran guitarist (Duke Robillard) demonstrates that he knows his way around a Gibson Les Paul model guitar in the ways that Paul played and overdubbed it on his series of hit recordings with his then-wife, (Mary) Ford (Sunny) Crownover has a warm tone consistent with Ford’s (TALES FROM THE TIKI LOUNGE) fits into the lounge/exotica style, especially given the frequent use of Latin rhythms including tango and rhumba. It’s all in fun but Robillard effectively eulogizes Paul’s guitar”
– All Music Guide

“Roots guitar virtuoso Duke Robillard’s glorious new TALES FROM THE TIKI LOUNGE. a collaboration with vocalist Sunny Crownover…rarified, eclectic songs that fall into the ‘exotica’ category. Robillard’s long been known for a versatile delivery (with) nearly 30 solo albums that explore every aspect of American music. So it’s not surprising that Robillard was able to reproduce the warm, reverb drenched sweetness of Paul’s guitar approach and conjure the depth, sheen and ambiance of his classic recordings with Ford… Crownover’s flexible, clear-toned performances bring every melody to gorgeous, nearly three-dimensional life”
-Ted Drozdowski, Gibson

Wobble Walkin’
“Most everything Duke Robillard has done as a guitarist during the past four plus decades – two dozen feature albums, thousands of headlining gigs, co-founding Roomful of Blues, Fabulous Thunderbirds membership, Quality time with Jay McShann, Jimmy Witherspoon, Ruth Brown, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and a long list of others – bears witness to his musical intelligence and his dedication to his craft.”
Frank John Hadley- Downbeat Magazine July 2010

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 Blue Duchess Records, is one of the most instantly gratifying entries in a discography that now numbers more than 30 titles.

“Wobble Walkin'” features the Duke Robillard Jazz Trio: Duke on guitar with Brad Hallen on bass and percussionist Mark Teixeira. Duke pays 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.” “Wobble Walkin’ “expands Robillard’s musical universe even further.

“Wobble Walkin'” is a captivating combination of ageless sound, brought up to date by forward-thinking musicians and recorded with state-of-the-art sonics. This release summons 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 the Duke Robillard Jazz Trio. “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. Make no mistake: “Wobble Walkin'” isn’t only about revitalizing that which has come before. 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.


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