Al Basile – B’s Testimony
13 songs, 56 minutes
Al Basile is the Northeast’s poet laureate of the Blues. A founding member of Roomful of Blues and sideman/compatriot of Duke Robillard, Basile the singer, songwriter, poet and cornetist is a Blues institution. After retiring from his day gig of 25 years teaching at a private high school in Providence, RI in 2005, Basile has embarked on a prolific outpouring of endlessly creative and thoughtful projects. His most recent is in many ways his most singular and personal – B’s Testimony. After years of working with the Duke, Al has shot out on his own producing this record himself. After 2 concept song-cycle records, B’s Testimony is a collection of 13 stand alone observations and musings that feature Basile’s weathered croon, his lamenting horn and his clear poetic voice.
Al Basile, being a central figure in the Northeast, has always worked with the best regional sidemen. The endlessly groovy Mark Teixeira on drums and the funky Brad Hallen on bass create the foundation. The jovial Bruce Bears tickles the ivories and long time brothers in horn Doug James on tenor and Jeff “Doc” Chanonhouse on trumpet give life to Basile’s thoughtful arrangements. If you are not going to have your old friend Duke Robillard on guitar then his West Coast heir apparent Kid Anderson is a good replacement. Kid flew his parts in from Greaseland and they are consistently inventive and exciting. Rounding out the band is Mississippi-based singer Shy Perry duetting with her uniquely low register pipes on “One Day at a Time.”
In the press material for B’s Testimony, Basile is quoted “I like to tell the truth in every song – not necessarily one that happened to me, but one that does happen, and could happen to you.” Basile’s style of songwriting is straightforward, finding the poetic in the everyday tribulations of the heart. Songs like “Lucky Man,” “When the Girl Says Yes,” and “One Day at a Time,” bring depth of meaning and feeling to the daily grind of life rendering it artistic. Some of Basile’s work is done to simply entertain us such as “I Oughta Be Your Monkey” and “I’m Bad That Way.” Other songs create profound vignettes of the human condition such as “I Got a Right to Be Lonesome” and “Up Close and Personal Best.”
All of the testimonies of this record are wrapped into some of the most fluid and effortlessly executed Blues and Roots music imaginable. Teixeira, Hallen and Bears are a well honed machine being the Duke’s frequent merry-men. Moving from 70’s funk to low down 12 bar stomping to flashy sprints, this band cooks. Basile has a laconic Miles Davis phrasing style to his horn playing that is counterpoint to Anderson’s incendiary playing. Using organic, vintage sounds, Kid really stretches out all over this record using a variety of techniques ranging from double stops, chromatic flights of fancy and just gut bucket emotive string bending. When backed by Basile’s lengthy and varied horn arrangements, the overall effect of the record is consistent yet endlessly surprising.
Al Basile is a true Bluesman. An artist and deep thinker, a liver of life and a unique voice. He creates in many different modes through his poetry and other writing. However, his ability to sound fresh and relatable within this idiom truly makes his music a revelation. B certainly can stand and testify.