Walking the line

Duke Robillard comes out Swingin’
By BOB GULLA  |  May 28, 2008

In the liner notes to his new album, A Swingin’ Session with Duke Robillard, the guitarist writes, “For me, there’s a very thin line between the jazz and the blues. All the early jazz and big band players were adept and often great at playing the blues.” He goes on to cite the likes of Louis Armstrong, Ben Webster, Count Basie, and Charlie Parker.

This quote explains a lot about Robillard, and the terrain he has explored throughout his career. He has spent much of his life walking the broad line covering these overlapping styles, occasionally stepping into pure blues or pure jazz, but most often mingling the two in a potent cocktail.

On Swingin’, his 14th disc for Stony Plain, Robillard stretches into a spectrum of areas, all bound together by his passion for timeless sounds. You can hear Robillard’s musical curiosity in the way he tackles Ray Charles’s “Them That Got,” the bluesy barrelhouse of Hot Lips Page’s “They Raided the Joint,” and the sweet standard “The Song Is Ended” from the Irving Berlin songbook. Many of our fave studio aces accompany Robillard, including Scott Hamilton, Bruce Katz, Doug James, and  “Sax” Beadle, plus Al Basile, Marty Ballou, Carl Querferth, and drummer Mark Teixeira.  You can catch a good number of them this weekend when Robillard celebrates the release of A Swingin’ Session at Chan’s, 267 Main Street, Woonsocket, on Saturday (the 31st) at 8 and 10 pm. Call 401.765.1900.

Mike G & Associates
Guitarist/songwriter Mike Gendron has spent his career with GrandEvolution — at least for the past 300 or so gigs — plowing through New England with Sarah Kollett and Scott Kenyon. Now it’s time for Gendron to put GE on the back burner and take control of his own career, with a new band and a new album ready to roll.

The Traveler’s Diary is Gendron’s first shot at a new project and it’s a doozy. It heaves with big doses of hard rock chords, loose harmony vocals, and anthemic melodies. It’s easy to hear the inspirations at the heart of the Mike’s music: Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and many other soaring rockers. It’s meaty, too, and above all, singalong rock with sweat pouring from the grooves. He’s sincere as hell, he wants us to believe him, and these songs make a pretty convincing argument.

We’re not sure exactly what this means for GrandEvolution. But The Traveler’s Diary proves that Gendron needs to give this new venture a legitimate shot. It’s that good and should sound amazing live and loud. You can catch his new crew twice in the next couple of weeks at a pair of CD release bashes. On Friday, the’ll play an acoustic show at the Brooklyn Coffee & Tea House, 209 Douglas Avenue, Providence, with Whalebone Jackson and 60 Feet of Stupid. Call 401.575.2284. On Saturday, June 14, the band plays full-tilt electric at Mulhearn’s Pub, 507 North Broadway, East Providence, with Signs of Life and fellow Associate Pete Gendron opening. Call 401.438.9292. You can hear some of Mike’s new music at myspace.com/mikegsolo.

Shaun Hague
Got an e-mail this week from Shaun Hague, a local music friend who recently returned to Los Angeles. Shaun, a guitarist who had just gotten off a stellar gig with the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, took a crack at our local music scene, thinking perhaps there’d be some room for a newish kid on the block. Unfortunately, the climate, both literally and figuratively, didn’t suit him or his music. “My style of writing didn’t fit in Providence,” he wrote, “and the opportunity just wasn’t there like it is in Los Angeles.” While he was here — his stay lasted less than a year — he missed the West Coast, and he found him-self flying there for auditions in new backing bands for Pink and Daughtry, posts that he didn’t get. But since moving back, his luck changed and he’s swinging for the big-time fences. “I’ve played for John Fogerty and Tiffany, and opened a show for Dave Matthews,” he said. “Ten months back in New England and I had really nothing to show for it.”

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