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VCV: Duke Robillard – “Jumpin’ The Bone”

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2010 Blues Music AwardsPop culture and common mythology doesn't often associate big band and orchestra with the blues, but when Florence, Alabama native W.C. Handy, the Father of the Blues, composed “St. Louis Blues” it was not for one man and a guitar or harmonica but for a full band with brass and woodwind instruments. The blues idiom has always been more diverse than it's given credit for, and performers like Duke Robillard and his Jumpin' Blues Revue have helped keep some of the more obscure traditions alive.

“Jumpin' The Bone” plays to the strengths of the Jumpin' Blues Revue, emphasizing the big band sound, swinging groove, and stylish lead guitar of Robillard. Drummer Mark Teixeira – no, I'm pretty sure it's not the Yankee first basemen – plays with a light, jazzy touch while Jon Ross' acoustic bass strolls nimbly.

The song opens with some jazzy chording followed by lead guitar line that introduces the basic melodic motif the rest of the band will explore upon their entrance. The horn section enters and plays with this theme before yielding to another Robillard guitar run. Rich Lataille steps forward with an alto sax solo and then gives way to a cornet solo by Al Basile and nods back to Lataille. Robillard takes one final solo before the entire band unites to bring the song to a close together. Teixiera, Ross, and pianist Bruce Bears keep the beat swinging and danceable throughout the solos.

The song clocks in at just under six minutes on the album but you can imagine it going much longer in concert where these wonderful soloists can take turns improvising.

It's hard for listeners of my generation to realize this is what popular music once sounded like. It's not such a bad thing that popular tastes have changed over the generations but is a shame that so many are unaware of the tradition and it would be an even greater shame if swing and jump blues and the big band sound disappeared completely.

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