Double Handy award winning guitarist Duke Robillard has always been more than just a blues guitarist. His resume shows that he is perfectly at ease with jazz and r&b, having recorded with the likes of Jimmy Witherspoon, Jay McShann, and jazz guitar legend Herb Ellis. His latest outing for Canada's Stony Plain label, "More Conversations In Swing Guitar" sees him coupling up with Ellis once more on the follow up to their 1999 album.
"Moten Swing," the first of the covers, gets things underway. It is a tune that will be familiar to many, even if the title is not. The two main men stick to 1999's winning support team of Marty Ballou (bass), Marty Richards (drums) and Terry Holmes (acoustic rhythm guitar). They provide the backdrop, whilst Robillard and Ellis weave the beautifully relaxed tapestry. The engine room does a particularly good job in providing the driving impetus for Robillard's "Train To Texas," where the seamless interplay between the two master guitarists (Robillard in the right stereo channel; Ellis in the left) continues with one echoing the other's refrains.
The second cover is Illinois Jacquet's "Robin's Nest," another familiar tune, which takes the pace, but not the quality, down a notch or two. A bass intro then heralds the arrival of the final cover, "Just You, Just Me,"--by Jesse Greer and Raymond Klages, not Kalges as it says in the liner notes. Another familiar tune, this one has been covered by a wide range of acts including Ray Charles and Duke Ellington, so Robillard and Ellis are
in good company.
The album then rounds off with a couple of originals. "Blues For Terry," which has a real late night feel to it, sounds a little like a distant cousin of "Blues In The Night." It also demonstrates again the close links between blues and jazz, with Ellis contributing some appropriately bluesy licks. The album then closes out in style with the aptly titled "End of Session Jump." This is another tune with a surefire guarantee to get your
toes tapping even on the first listening.
"More Conversations in Swing Guitar" is a classy affair that will please all lovers of fine guitar playing. The material comfortably straddles the blues/jazz border where you can find other class acts like Kenny Burrell, Ronnie Earl, and the UK's Sonny Black. The album is fairly mellow, and is one to be savored, like a fine wine. The main men pick up where they left off last time, and the way they bounce off each other is almost poetic. On
"More Conversations..." Robillard and Ellis let their guitars do the talking, and what they have to say is certainly well worth listening to.
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