Duke Robillard trio performs Saturday in Rosendale
He is, by all accounts, a legend in the blues community and has been compared to the likes of Bob Dylan, Dr. John, Maria Muldaur and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Guitarist Duke Robillard, who’s been called by B.B. King “one of the great players,” will be appearing at the Rosendale Café at 434 Main St. on Saturday at 8 p.m.
This will be Robillard’s second performance at the Rosendale Café, a trendy spot with good acoustics and intimate seating.
Still, bringing such talent to Ulster County remains big news.
A snapshot of his numerous honors and awards bears that out.
Robillard has been named by the Blues Music Awards the “Best Blues Guitarist” for four consecutive years from 2000-2004, making him the second most honored guitarist for that award.
In 2007, he received a Grammy nomination for his CD, “Guitar Groove-a-rama” and was also honored with the prestigious Rhode Island Pell Award for “excellence in the arts” along with actress Olympia Dukakis, actor Bob Colonna and choreographer Mihailo “Misha” Djuric.
That’s not all.
Robillard has captured other prestigious awards in recent years, including three Canadian Maple Blues Awards in 2001, 2002 and 2003 for “Best International Blues Artist”; The Blues Foundation’s “Producer of the Year” award in 2004; The French Blues Association “Album of the Year” award in 2002 (“Living with the Blues”); and “Guitarist of the Year” awards in 1999 and 2002.
None of that goes to Robillard’s head. Continued...
He’s still on the road, playing as many as 250 dates a year and proving, night after night, that his true talent is bringing people out to hear the music, appreciate the show and dance to the blues.
Mark Morganstern, the owner of the Rosendale Café, said that is precisely what Robillard does.
“He knows that he can bring his trio, and it will be great and people will come and have a nice night,” Morganstern said.
“He’s great. I love his work. He’s the kind of artist who’s more interested in playing and making it happen than haggling for some big deal. He’s one of the extraordinary musicians of our time.”
Robillard seemed almost destined to hit the big time.
He was born in Woonsocket, R.I., and had his first band in high school.
According to his official website, www.dukerobillard.com, Robillard was fascinated from the beginning by the ways in which jazz, swing and the blues were conjoined.
In 1967, he formed Roomful of Blues, and the band was tight enough and tough enough to accompany two of its heroes, Big Joe Turner and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, on record and in live appearances.
Always ahead of his time, Robillard’s first band pre-dated the renewed interest in jump blues by more than a decade — and almost 20 years later, in 1986, when he recorded with jazz sax master Scott Hamilton, he recorded a collection of classic Big Band tunes from the 30s and 40s, thus skillfully pre-dating the neo-Swing craze of the mid-90s.
Roomful of Blues — which still continues 40 years later — gave Robillard his first exposure to a wide public, and when he left after a dozen years, he played briefly with rockabilly king Robert Gordon. Continued...
He then cut two albums with the Legendary Blues Band (a sterling collection of former members of Muddy Waters’ band) and led his own band until 1990.
Robillard later replaced Jimmy Vaughan in the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
In 1993, as he was about to sign a world-wide recording deal with Virgin/Pointblank, he met Holger Petersen, head of the Canadian independent label Stony Plain, at a folk festival in Winnipeg.
In conversation, he mentioned he wanted to record a complete album of blues, without the rhythm and blues and jazz influences of his work to date.
Petersen was interested. Virgin gave the go-ahead, and the resulting album, Duke’s Blues, earned rave reviews. It was so successful, in fact, that Virgin soon licensed the record from Stony Plain and released it around the world (except in Canada, where it continues in the Canadian company’s catalogue.
In the years since, Robillard’s relationship with the Canadian label has been astonishingly fruitful.
As a soloist, he has released 11 CDs, plus one with label mate Ronnie Earl and one with The New Guitar Summit.
Just as remarkable have been the projects he has produced (and played on) for Stony Plain, including two albums with the late Jimmy Witherspoon, two with Kansas City piano king Jay McShann, comeback CDs for Billy Boy Arnold and Rosco Gordon, a swinging confection with the Canadian band The Rockin’ Highliners, and a superb album of guitar duets with the jazz legend Herb Ellis.
As if this growing catalogue was not enough, he has found time to share studio gigs with Bob Dylan (the Daniel Lanois-produced “Time Out of Mind” sessions); Ruth Brown, the late Johnny Adams; John Hammond; Pinetop Perkins; and Ronnie Earl.
Robillard now has his own 24-track studio in his home and has become deeply involved in graphic design and photography as well as record production. Continued...
Morganstern said Robillard doesn’t seem to mind playing the smaller venues like the Rosendale Café, which seats between 70 and 75 people, and he feels fortunate to once again feature him.
“He’s very much in demand,” Morganstern said. “People want to hear him, and he always plays with first-class players. Whoever comes with him is a really good musician.”
Tickets for the 8 p.m. Duke Robillard Jazz Trio show are $15. For more information, go to www.rosendalecafe.com or call (845) 658-9048.
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