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The Tinge by Al Basile

Al Basile's liner notes say it well, ".... some blues, some jazz, and some soul .... ." But wait, there's more! The album's title refers to a rhythmic pattern, used on seven tracks, that Jelly Roll Morton called the Spanish Tinge. That rhythm and the arrangements, vocals and tunes often reminded me of New Orleans, especially that town's R&B and jump swing of the 1940s and 50s. Basile is more subtle and versatile than Fats Domino and Louie Prima, but just as much fun. My main reaction to the album was to make a note that if he ever comes to town, I should corral my lady and catch the show, while downing appropriate libations.

Since I listened before reading the liner notes, I was surprised to learn all 13 tunes were Basile originals. I'd been guessing many of them were covers of oldies worth reviving. The melodies are strong and the lyrics range from poetic to clever and back again. (Basile has a master's degree in creative writing from Brown University not your usual song-writing credential.) Definitely eclectic in choice of influences, he even gives a nod to the ironies of C&W with "You're Still Right (and I'm Still Gone)."

Basile's earliest success was as lead trumpet with Roomful of Blues. So, although the emphasis here is on his vocals, it's great that his warm and laid-back cornet (sometimes muted) is more in evidence than on previous albums as a leader. He takes a moody, languid solo on "Airlift My Heart," giving it a "St. James Infirmary" feel. And on "While We're Dancing," a fine love song, he finishes by reminding us that Louie Armstrong is an idol.

Rich Lataille, Doug James and Duke Robillard, also from Roomful, join Basile on the outing. Robillard's guitar is especially welcome on the blues-tinged tracks. The saxes of James and Lataille, along with Bruce Katz's keyboards, are especially prominent on the tracks most suggestive of New Orleans. (Katz occasionally even evokes the ghost of Professor Longhair.) Tunes such as "Just Wait and See" and "Can I Trust You with a Kiss" reminded me that the Big Easy deserves almost as much historical credit (if that's the right word) for rock as it does for jazz.

In spite of obvious and sometimes ancient influences, Basile manages to sound contemporary, and indebted rather than derivative. This is a genial, entertaining, and heartfelt outing that will please jazz fans who don't mind a little pop with their hard liquor.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Al Basile
  • CD Title: The Tinge
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Sweetspot
  • Rating: Four Stars
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