Wobble Walkin’ Reviews
“Music that confirms Robillard's place among the great guitarists operating today. “
By Dan Bilawsky All About Jazz .com
“Duke Robillard's finest release in over a decade and an absolute must for the collector!”
By Brent Black @Critical Jazz
“One drop dead gorgeous after hours guitar jazz outing that’s not to be missed.”
by CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher MIDWEST RECORD
“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.” By B@N Exystence.net
“Wobble Walkin’ …riffs and roils and then brilliantly uncoils — proof all over again of the layered complexities that make Duke Robillard one of the most intriguing roots musicians working today.” By Nick DeRiso Somethingelsereviews.com
“Robillard demonstrates his jazz sensibilities with panache and verve…. His infectious blues-based riffs give a buoyant resonance to the first composition and in the latter he offers a dreamy emotional solo…. Robillard confirms his jazz intentions with solos that are ripe with interesting musical ideas and note shapes that seem just right for the occasion…. Duke Robillard is not a derivative guitarist but has found his own voice with much to offer.” By Pierre Giroux Audiophile Audition
“Duke offers a tasty menu of standards and original compositions…..Duke demonstrate that he's not only one of the great interpreters of the Great American Songbook but also a composer of similarly timeless music.”
by Michael Mueller GuitarInstructor .com
“Blues guitar master Robillard’s latest foray into jazz exudes the comfy, congenial vibes of a classic after-hours
jam session ..Tasty stuff.”
By Duane Verh Blues and Jazz Report
“Ever prolific, Duke Robillard is back with a stylish songbook of Brad Hallen’s walking acoustic bass lines add the perfect echo to Robillard’s warm electric archtop tone.”
By MD Vintage Guitar Magazine
“The title track, a slow shuffle, leads off, setting the tone for an album full of underplayed eloquence. …If you’re looking for the latest 90 mph guitar-slinger, look elsewhere; if you want tasty, bluesy jazz, this record’s for you.”
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr. Leoweekly.com
“Meet the new boss: guitarist Duke Robillard, heading up his own record label after distinguishing himself on numerous others. It’s likely to be a good career move, at least artistically, judging from this playful, soulful and swinging mix of original tunes and pop classics. By Mike Joyce JazzTimes
“…Robillard’s playing is a consistent delight — by turns whip smart, deeply romantic, twinkling and humorous, then sweetly approachable…. that riffs and roils and then brilliantly uncoils — proof all over again of the layered complexities that make Duke Robillard one of the most intriguing roots musicians working today.” Tumblr.com
While his peers were rightfully enamored of the Beatles and the rest of the Sixties’ musical British Invasion, Duke Robillard was already dedicated to his passionate mission of scouring old record stores for vintage blues and race records. He was educating himself, not just about music, he was also investigating the historic cultural coordinates that spoke to him. Young Duke was unearthing the recordings that were so influential and coveted by the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, John Mayall and so many others who were jazzed by the venerable music of our heritage.
In fact, Robillard ultimately became so conversant in the genre, perhaps his most complimentary endorsement was conferred by Big Joe Turner, who after hearing him play, called the widow of perhaps the most original and significant guitarist of his era, T-Bone Walker, and exclaimed, “T-Bone lives!” Duke had discovered early on what the late guitar maven Ted Greene said just months before he passed on, “Modern jazz, blues and rock guitar can be distilled down to T-Bone Walker.”
So Duke Robillard, being no slave to time or trend, went on to explore our musical legacy even more comprehensively. In addition to the blues, he hipped himself to jump, swing, jazz, bebop and more by studying such artists as Wynonie Harris, Roy Milton, Louis Armstrong, Sonny Stitt, the Jimmie Lunceford and Buddy Johnson bands and any number of artists whose work impressed him. He says, “I’m a big fan of the writers of Tin Pan Alley, the pop tunes of the 30s. And I’m a big fan of the 20s, 30s and 40s tunes that represent something in this country that will never happen again. There’s a certain innocence and beauty there.”
But Robillard is no anachronism. After all, hip is as hip does. He says, “The way I look at it, as long as you breathe your own life into the music it’s not old. It’s only a museum piece when it becomes a staid copy of something else. I just love playing great tunes. And, in my opinion, it’s been a long time since there’s been anything to replace those tunes.”
I believe Duke is correct. Gone are the days when the brilliantly crafted music of Gershwin, Ellington and their peers was routinely on the pop charts. But fortunately, like all great art, jazz will always be with us. And with such artists as Duke Robillard, it won’t have to thrive only among elitists and appeal to cults and the cultivated. Duke is an exponent of historically important music and has the gift of presenting it with an accessibility and appeal. It’s friendly, certainly musically valid, and evokes an emotionally vibrant resonance within us all. Robillard demonstrated that prominently to the music world with his recordings, Conversations In Swing Guitar and More Conversations In Swing Guitar with the great and now late Herb Ellis.
In this collection, Duke pays homage to a number of our greatest composers and artists. We’re treated to Cole Porter’s, “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You,” made famous by The King Cole Trio, “I Can’t Believe You’re In Love With Me, recorded by Billie Holiday back in 1933, and the everlasting standard “All of Me,” a tune that became a staple for virtually every major music act in the 1940s from Bing to Billie, to Benny. And “Back Home Again In Indiana,” first introduced as a Tin Pan Alley pop song in 1917 was one of the first jazz records to sell in a big way. In addition, Duke honors his declaration, “I like riff-based tunes,” by choosing perhaps the most iconic riff tune of all, Mercer Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be.” And I mustn’t forget to mention the trio’s rendition of the Oscar-winning Gershwin tune, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” You just know the lyrics are in Duke’s head as he lays down his solo.
Robillard enlisted the help of two superb players from his blues band: bass player Brad Hallen and drummer Mark Teixeira. Both share in the synergy that creates an unfailingly authoritative groove that’s always in the pocket. There’s an unmistakable authenticity about the kinetic sound of an acoustic bass and drum kit, especially in the hands of two superior players. Duke’s composition, “Skippy’s Dream” is a case in point. Hallen’s tone is big and fat but never boomy or imposing. His solo ideas are inventive and clever, and he’s granted lots of well-deserved solo time throughout the recording. And when he’s creating a bass line to drive, support and inspire, he’s as rock solid as an airline dinner roll. And Mark Teixeira’s touch, technique and ideas exude character and imagination. His liquid, yet brisk touch with brushes is reminiscent of Roy Haynes and Joe Morello. And I’d be remiss in not mentioning Mickey Freeman who spices up “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You.” As a tip of the hat to the tradition of the era, Mickey bestows her bluesy and sexy vocal only after a few choruses have set the scene.
We’re also privy to a number of Robillard originals. Duke’s title tune “Wobble Walkin,” with its infectious and memorable riff sets the tone for this collection and serves as a cool harbinger of what’s to come. And his “Sunday Morning,” struts along with a perky attitude that showcases a cagey and captivating stick solo by Mark Teixeira. It’s tastefully understated and indicative of an artist who understands when less is more. Duke again pays his blues dues with the languid “Jesse’s Blues” a cool culmination to the set in which the guitarist discloses his story with a smoldering and soulful solo.
The great Lester Young said, “Every style is the result of a handicap.” But if Duke has one, it’s his refreshingly unpretentious approach. He’s self taught and isn’t thinking about scales and modes when he’s soloing. Any good musician works endlessly to cultivate the ability to play what he or she hears. And Duke Robillard developed that skill long ago. If you stopped him in mid-solo, he could sing you the rest of the line he was creating. He’s not about licks and tricks and he can play melodic lines over chord changes. Believe me, there are some famous guitar slingers today who couldn’t play over the changes to “Back Home Again in Indiana” if they were at gunpoint. But Robillard’s study of his musical antecedents has not just developed his protean style but also yielded an understanding of melodic phrasing and dynamics.
If a passage or phrase calls for subtlety he’ll respect that and use it to good effect. But then he might emerge with the ferocity of an underfed grizzly. Suffice it to say, he serves the song as an interpreter of the composer’s creation. Furthermore, Robillard is one of the few jazz guitarists with a recognizable style. Only a handful of even our greatest players have a sound that’s immediately identifiable. To wit, there’s Howard Roberts, Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green and Wes Montgomery, and of course Duke Robillard. I know being on that list would embarrass him, but any fan of Duke’s could identify his playing from a hundred yards.
Jazz musicians are perhaps our most elite artists because they’re bound to give us what they have at a moment’s notice. A jazz musician who’s creating a solo puts invention on the line with no rewrites. Jazz is the most difficult and demanding of all the traditional art forms because, by definition, it’s extemporaneous. We should be proud that it’s an American creation. Moreover, it’s something Duke Robillard and company invite you to celebrate with them.
Author of Conversations With Great Jazz and Studio Guitarists