Don’t look for the lip-smacking blues licks that have become associated with Duke Robillard for so long. Instead, the former co-founder of Roomful of Blues settles into an infectiously listenable, decidedly in-the-pocket tempo for much of his forthcoming new jazz trio project Wobble Walkin’.
That’s perhaps best heard on the title track, one of four originals on this April 17, 2012 release from Robillard’s own Blue Duchess label. Appearing with bassist Brad Hallen and drummer Mark Teixeira from his regular working blues unit, Robillard echoes the low-key feel of an after-midnight club stage — all while staying well away from the Tin Pan Alley cliche.
The rest of Wobble Walkin’ isn’t always so involving, as Robillard reexamines a series of familiar but occasionally time-worn chestnuts like the Gershwins’ “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” the Nat King Cole favorite “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Been Good To You” (featuring fellow Blue Duchess artist Mickey Freeman on vocals), Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” and Mercer Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be.” Despite the threadbare nature of some of the material, however, Robillard’s playing is a consistent delight — by turns whip smart, deeply romantic, twinkling and humorous, then sweetly approachable.
And when he takes the lid off one of the spicy originals like the title track (not to mention the Wes Montgomery-ish “Skippy’s Dream”), Wobble Walkin’ goes from being an unpretentious if maybe too pleasant effort to one that riffs and roils and then brilliantly uncoils — proof all over again of the layered complexities that make Duke Robillard one of the most intriguing roots musicians working today.