While Duke Robillard has been an integral part of many musical collectives over the years (Roomful Of Blues, the Pleasure Kings, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, his namesake band), the last decade has seen his muse assimilating the jazz-based strains of New Guitar Summit in collaboration with Gerry Beaudoin and Jay Geils to his list of endlessly fascinating side-projects.
Their origins go back to 1997 when these jamming buddies, who all shared a common love of the deep repertoire of legends like Charlie Christian, Freddy Green, Benny Goodman, got to share a stage the Woody Herman Orchestra in Boston. They proceeded to deliver a glorious set set off a buzz that rippled throughout the Jazz and Blues communities. In its wake, numerous appearances at clubs, concert hall, and festivals ensued across Canada and the U.S. followed, culminating in their first self-titled release in 2004 that garnered universal acclaim. Shivers is the follow-up and it’s further confirmation of their supreme give-and-take inventiveness.
Matters start off with "Little Bitty Pretty One", a cool re-working of Thurston Harris’ golden oldie circa 1958. It’s transformed into a mélange of mellow and bop-infused shadings: two minutes of pop spruced up into a 5-star gourmet feast. And, it’s a heckuva lead-off track! "Flying Home" soars (pardon the pun!) but it’s a natural for these guys, as they put their own inimitable stamp on this chestnut bequeathed us by Lionel Hampton and the Benny Goodman orchestra. "Honeysuckle Rose" becomes a magical fountain of delights in their adroit fingertips. Fats Wallers must be looking from on high with his Cheshire cat smile. This one rules!
There are two vocal tracks, featuring songs culled from the Mose Allison songbook "Your Mind Is On Vacation" and "Everybody’s Crying Mercy". Special guest Randy Bachman (of BTO fame) is aboard, and his vocals are the essence of cool. We’re not talking about his rambunctious brash delivery of "Taking Care Of Business", but rather of those breezy, calming vocals reminiscent of "Blue Collar". He also struts his instrumental jazz chops on the title track. "Shivers" was birthed over 70 years ago by the great Charlie Christian, and Bachman gets the fourth solo spot here, and acquits himself admirably. Bachman’s interest in Jazz goes back to the early sixties back in Winnipeg, a time when he hung out with and soaked up the influences of guitar guru Lenny Breau. Some of the other fascinating and eminently satisfying tracks include "Broadway", "Blue Sunset", and "Mediterranean Nights".
There’s a palpable sense of joy that permeates every second of Shivers, and it’s a function of these six-string giants are improvising at the highest level imaginable. With schedules the way they are, it’s a testament to their dedication and hard work ethic that they are fulfilling their artistic muses at its highest potential. Or as Beaudoin explains "this is an important part of American heritage that we are proud to help keep alive." And do they ever! Their effortless communication combined with those requisite nudgings (you hear shouts of encouragement along the way) must seem like manna from heaven to jazz connoisseurs. Take a century and a half of experience, nurture it in the creative crucible known as New Guitar Summit, and something special and unique is the bountiful result.