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Duke Robillard: A Swingin’ Session With Duke Robillard

Swingin’? Yes. But Duke Robillard’s latest release is also a joyous and soulful session, one that finds the veteran guitarist exploring blues-based jazz with customary finesse. Save for perhaps tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton’s guest appearance, there are no surprises here, just a series of familiar pleasures.

It’s clear early on that Robillard is happy to stay in his comfort zone, and chances are fans old enough to recall his pivotal stint as a founding member of Roomful of Blues will be equally pleased to hear him stay put during a relaxed series of performances buttressed by horns, piano and organ.

Jimmie Lunceford, Nellie Lutcher, Ray Charles and Nat “King” Cole are among the artists who have inspired the tune selections this time around, though Robillard ultimately pays tribute to his elders by evoking the past in his own knowing fashion. That’s also the case when he adds two original instrumentals to the mix: the riffing “Red Dog” and the organ-stoked “Swinging With Lucy Mae.”

Though not a commanding vocalist, Robillard knows how to infuse a lyric with his own personality-check out his engaging takes on “Deed I Do,” “Meet Me at No Special Place” and “They Raided the Joint”-and his crooning rendition of “When Your Lover Has Gone,” with a big assist from Hamilton’s resounding tenor, provides an effective contrast. Besides Hamilton, who plays on three cuts, the lineup features several musicians who’ve frequently collaborated with Robillard over the years, including keyboardist Bruce Katz, reedmen Doug James and Gordon Beadle, and trombonist Carl Querfurth. Small wonder Robillard sounds so at home.

Originally Published