Fresh from winning his fourth "Best Guitarist" award at the 25th annual W.C.Handy Blues Awards, Duke Robillard offers a new CD dedicated to the music of Aaron "T-Bone" Walker.
T-Bone Walker (1910-1975) cut his first record for Columbia in 1929 under the stage name of Oak Cliff T-Bone
. He went on to become the vocalist in Les Hite’s great band in the late 1930s and early 40s. As a solo performer, Walker wowed his audience with one of the flashiest routines since Cab Calloway. Doing the "splits" with guitar overhead followed by some "duck walking" became a trademark, long before Chuck Berry adopted similar routines. More than a showman, Walker backed his flamboyant behavior with some serious musical talent. The Texas-born bluesman was a great writer and an unbelievable player. T-Bone Walker was my introduction to the blues back in the early fifties when I received a copy of his Capitol 78rpm I Gotta Break Baby
. Being a young fan of classic New Orleans jazz, I had never heard a guitar played with so much emotion. My 78s have been replaced by CDs and vinyl but I’m still a huge fan.
As a guitarist and "modern day" bluesman, Duke Robillard has always wanted to record an album totally dedicated to his mentor. Robillard rightfully considers T-Bone to be the founding father of electric blues guitar. Duke founded the band Roomful of Blues
in 1967. Some of the hornmen on this recording are old pals from that band. After his years with "Roomful of Blues", Robillard went on, in 1990, to replace Jimmy Vaughan with the Fabulous Thunderbirds
followed by session-work with many major stars including Jimmy Witherspoon, Jay McShann, Bob Dylan and some jazz with the venerable Herbie Ellis
. Duke Robillard maintains a very busy schedule incorporating 250 live appearances yearly. This is his 9th album for the Canadian blues and roots label, Stony Plain Records
. Blue Mood
appeals to both jazz and blues listeners. The featured songs include many Walker originals but there are also items that T-Bone popularized over the years. There is a lot of delicious material on the Blue Mood
session. As a Walker fan, I loved Robillard’s version of You Don’t Love Me
but I’m awestruck by the nine minute rendition of I’m Still In Love With You
. Wherever T-Bone’s spirit is residing, he just has to be smiling about Duke’s loving tribute. His dedicated musicianship is certainly deserving of the numerous awards in the past decade.
As a jazz fan, the inclusion of such musicians as cornetist Al Basile, pianist Matt McCabe and reedman Billy Novick is especially welcome. Judicious arrangements are the essence of this fine session.Blue Mood
is highly recommended listening.