Sweetspot Records – 2016
13 tracks; 52 minutes
Al Basile was an original member of Roomful Of Blues and has kept close contact with the members of that band, several of whom feature here. On this set Al was inspired by his role in writing and producing the Knickerbocker All Stars’ Go Back Home To The Blues which I had the pleasure of reviewing last year, writing songs that recall the classic blues and Rn’B material that early Roomful performed, backed by an A-list team of musicians: Doug James (baritone and tenor sax), Bruce Bears (keys), Brad Hallen (bass) and Mark Teixeira from Duke Robillard’s band (Duke produced and adds guitar to two tracks), Mike Welch (guitar) from Sugar Ray & The Bluetones, Rich Lataille (alto and tenor sax) from the current Roomful line-up and Jeff ‘Doc’ Chanonhouse is on trumpet, Al playing his distinctive cornet and handling the vocals.
Opener “Keep Your Love, Where’s My Money” sets the standard with Bruce’s twinkling piano set over a rhumba rhythm and a fine horn arrangement, Al delivering some deeply cynical lyrics and a lyrical solo. An early highlight is the Stax-sounding “Midnight Blue Persuasion” in which Al seems to be a reluctant lover, his baleful tone on horn fitting the mood perfectly. Al is adept with a comic lyric: “Tickle My Mule” gives us a new expression to ponder as the band rocks along with a great solo from Mike before Al’s confession that “I’ve Got To Have Meat (With Every Meal)”, a song sure to infuriate the average vegetarian!
We also get some more serious songs such as “Big Trees Falling” and “Listen To The Elders” which both honour the greats that inspired him and urge the young to learn from Al’s own generation while there is still time.
Through the album all the main players get solo opportunities and every solo is worthy of attention, but as we rarely hear the cornet in the blues it is fascinating to study Al’s work here: listen to his solos on “Night Crossing” to get a feel for his quality which has been recognised by multiple BMA nominations. 1950’s big-band blues with acutely modern lyrics, a brilliant combination.