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Duke Robillard: Explorer

Duke Robillard, who replaced Ronnie Earl in Roomful of Blues, is a guitarist who can make the jump from blues into jazz more convincingly, as he demonstrated on past outings like Swing and After Hours Swing Session. On Explorer (Shanachie 9025; 53:51) he emphasizes blues and R&B material, flaunting razor-sharp licks and soulful vocals along the way. “Male Magnet” is a blues rocker that touches into Jonny Lang territory with fierce wah-wah licks, while “Just Between You and Me” is straightforward, horn-powered Memphis/N’awlins R&B, featuring Doug James on baritone sax and “Sax” Gordon Beadle on tenor. More contemporary elements come out on “Hang On” and he visits New Orleans in the infectious rhumba-boogie “Sayin’ Don’t Make It So,” which features some harp work from former Muddy Waters sideman Jerry Portnoy, and on the lazy stroll “You Dropped the Thing on Me.” “Jumpin’ With Duke” is an uptempo swinger that would appeal to Brian Setzer fans. And Robillard plays with exquisite taste and soulful restraint on the slow blues “Time Is Short.” Explorer is a solid, well-paced offering.

Originally Published