Vinnie Birbiglia warned us local rock writers as he led us backstage at JB Scott’s. “Whatever you do, don’t ask these guys about the Blues Brothers,” rasped the inimitable “Vinnie Monster” in his urgent outer-borough bray.
It was 1978, “these guys” were Roomful of Blues, and their leader and guitarist Duke Robillard, Vinnie warned us, did not want to recall the band’s brief, ill-fated association with “Saturday Night Live” stars Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, soon to be the Blues Brothers. We all avoided this troubling topic, from admiration as much as Vinnie’s injunction.
Robillard was overwhelming onstage, and backstage was encyclopedically knowledgeable about the blues and proudly serious about them.
We heard later that, by comparison, Aykroyd and Belushi — not so much. Soon after Roomful played JB Scott’s, reports filtered out about how Aykroyd and Belushi had asked to sit in with them at New York’s Bottom Line, hoping to recruit the Rhode Island jump-blues crew as their Blues Brothers Band.
They reportedly took over in a hurry, offending Robillard by spraying beer at the audience, which sprayed beer back, splashing Robillard’s vintage guitar and amp, natty suit and perfect hair. He was not amused, and didn’t go for the comics’ suggestion that Roomful become the Blues Brothers Band. As Roomful saxophonist Rich Lataille told a reporter for the Free Lance-Star newspaper in 2001, Robillard “told Belushi that he was not a blues singer; that he was making fun of the blues and we were serious musicians.”
Since then, Duke Robillard has been serious about the blues with the Fabulous Thunderbirds (replacing Jimmie Vaughan), the Legendary Blues Band (with alums of Muddy Waters’ band) and too many other blues and soul stars to list here, often winning The Blues Music Awards for “Best Blues Guitarist” and many nominations for himself and his bands. The Blues Brothers are history, but Duke Robillard keeps riffing on.
The Duke Robillard Jumpin’ Blues Revue plays two shows on Friday at the Van Dyck (237 Union St., Schenectady) at 6:30 and 8 p.m. Admission is $18 in advance, $20 at the door. Phone 346-7999 or visit www.vandycklounge.com.
Duke Robillard states on the package of his spunky, swinging new CD “Stomp! The Blues Tonight” that he sees its vintage music as his attempt to “reproduce the authentic sound of the early rhythm & blues of the mid to late 1940s and ’50s.”
How ’bout Voodoo?
Well there’s a lot of that going around: While Duke Robillard fires up at the Van Dyck on Friday, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (hereafter BBVD) ignites its tribute to Cab Calloway at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
For Gazette music writer Brian McElhiney's preview of this show, click here.
Before BBVD played a Music Haven gala here in 2006, trumpeter Scotty Morris spoke of his musical mission in terms Robillard would surely endorse. “I loved Louie Armstrong’s bands, Duke Ellington and Count Basie,” Morris recalled. “I was always really taken by that music, though I knew it was not a popular trend at the time. I wasn’t interested in turning it into a pop form. I just loved it and followed my heart.” By doing so, BBVD helped make vintage jump blues into a pop form anyway — half a musical generation after Roomful of Blues and Duke Robillard managed it in the 1970s — and fans have taken it to their hearts, and the dance floor.
For Gazette music writer Brian McElhiney's review of this show, click here.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy pays tribute to Cab Calloway on Friday at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $42, $36, $29 and $20. Phone 273-0038 or visit www.troymusichall.org.
If those two similar shows on the same night aren’t enough, Doc Scanlon’s Hot Four plays jump-blues and swing, also on Friday, at the Albany Elks Club (25 S. Allen St., Albany), starting at 7 p.m. with a swing-dance lesson. The retro-leaning Hot Four features bassist Doc Scanlon, Peter Davis playing sax and piano, guitarist Graham Tichy (who also plays with his own band Rocky Velvet and in groups with his father John Tichy) and guest saxophonist and clarinet player Dan Levinson. This will be their first gig as the Hot Four, but these guys know how.
Admission is $10 for the 8 p.m. dance and $5 for the 7 p.m. lesson. Admission also includes pizza. Phone 489-0698.
Two Afro-pop shows
On Sunday at 7 p.m. Malian guitarist Habib Koite leads his band Bamada onstage at the Iron Horse (20 Center St., Northampton, Mass.). Bamada features mainly Malian stringed instruments, but also the xylophone-like balafon. Koite incorporates pentatonic scales and open tunings on guitar to integrate his guitar sound with Malian instruments. Admission is $22.50 in advance, $25 at the door. Phone (413) 586-8686 or visit www.iheg.com.
On Wednesday, another giant of Malian string-band virtuosity — ngoni-master Bassekou Kouyate — brings his band Ngoni Ba to the Sanctuary for Independent Media (3361 Sixth Ave. at 101st Street, Troy). Kouyate added straps to the ngoni, skin-headed predecessor to the banjo, freeing himself and his band members as stand-up soloists; traditional ngoni masters sit down to play. Koite also uses innovative slide and note-bending techniques.
When Kouyate jammed with Taj Mahal in 1990, Kouyate had never heard of the American blues man. After they played, Taj exclaimed, “So, you already know the blues!” However, Kouyate had also never heard the blues and was actually playing his familiar village style: He said: “It is the same music.”
Show time is 8 p.m. for Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba on Wednesday at the Sanctuary for Independent Media. Admission is $10. Phone 272-2390 or visit www.MediaSanctuary.org.
Biscuits tix all gone
Isn’t this great? The Disco Biscuits have sold out their show tonight at The Egg, in this tough economy. Doesn’t this suck? The Disco Biscuits sold out. This sad news reminds me of the tattered, hand-crayoned sign that announces, “Bread All Gone” in the window at Perreca’s Bakery in Schenectady.
2 Jarrod Gorbel shows
Formerly recording as the Honorary Title, Brooklyn singer-songwriter Jarrod Gorbel visits both the Iron Horse and Valentine’s this weekend, using his own name and showcasing new music from two recent releases: “Ten Years Older” and “Devil’s Made a New Friend.”
On Friday, Gorbel plays the Iron Horse at 10 p.m., with Jaymay opening. Admission is $13.
On Saturday, Gorbel jumps over the Berkshires to play Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany) with Jaymay and Nate Danker opening his 8 p.m. downstairs show. Admission is $12. Phone 432-6572 or visit www.valentinesalbany.com.
Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]