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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!


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Showing posts with label Greg Piccolo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greg Piccolo. Show all posts

Monday, January 11, 2021

Stony Plain Records artist: Duke Robillard & Friends - Blues Bash - New Release Review

 I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Blues Bash, by Duke Robillard & Friends and it may be his best recent release. Opening with Do You Mean It, Chris Cote is up front on lead vocal with Robillard on guitar, Bruce Bears on piano and Hammond, Mark Teixeira on drums and Jesse Williams on bass. With it's up tempo shuffle feel and super lead work by Robillard, super opener. Piano boogie, What Can I Do showcases strong piano by Bears and super sax by Greg Piccolo, Rich Lataille and Doug James and again. With Cote on lead vocal again and some really hot guitar riffs by Robillard, this track spins. With it's bluesy lope, Rock Alley is a great track to show Robillard at his best. His guitar phrasing is terrific and his feel is soulful. A bluesy sax solo by Lataille really adds great spice on this track. Very nice. Michelle Willson steps up on lead vocal on swing track, You Played On My Piano giving it a great feel and a rich, fat, sax solo by James really kicks this track up another notch. On I Ain't Gonna Do It, Mark Braun really sets the pace on piano with Marty Richards on drums, Marty Ballou on bass, Al Basile on cornet and Sax Gordon on sax. Hot track. Robillard handles lead guitar and vocal on Give Me All The Love You Got with it's sturdy blues feel and fat sax bottom. Robillard dances stylistically on the fretboard showing that fluid finger work that he's well known for. Very cool. Wrapping the release is Just Chillin', a cool, instrumental blues jam with a relaxed feel. Piccolo lays in a really nice sax solo, followed by nicely phrased guitar soloing by Robillard. A Hammond solo by Bears adds real texture to the track making this a strong closer for a solid release. 

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Friday, October 18, 2019

Stony Plain Records artist: Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters - Beyond The Blue Door - New Release Review

I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Beyond The Blue Door, from Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters, and it's really strong. Opening with Brand New Me, a Jerry Butler track, the bands starts off in a solid slot with vocal dynamo, Diane Blue up front backed by Dave Limina on piano and B3, Ronnie Earl on guitar, Forrest Padgett on drums and Paul Kochanski on bass with Mario Perrett on tenor sax, and Scott Shetler on bari sax . Slipping into a cool shuffle, Baby How Long,  Kim Wilson is up front on lead vocal and harmonica. A real Chicago style blues gives Wilson and Earl a nice opportunity to exchange solos with Anthony Geraci on piano and Peter Ward on guitar. Very nice. Henry Glover's tune made popular by Ray Charles, Drown In My Own Tears gives Earl the stage to do exactly what everyone expects of Earl, to play those long soulful runs that have been such a trademark of his sound. Exchanging phrasing with Greg Piccolo on sax, this track is really hot. An interesting twist on a Ronnie Earl album is an acoustic take on Bob Dylan's, It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry . This is a great track that I have a special fondness for and it's earlier remake by Leon Russell, featuring Dave Bromberg on acoustic guitar and lead vocal balanced with Earl on electric guitar. Two great masters playing separate interpretations together making one very nice interpretation. Another favorite and certainly one of the best showcases for Blue is A Soul That's Been Abused with it's somber feel and that of course brings out the best in Earl. If you've followed his work, you know when a track goes in excess of 9 minutes, you're in for some rich guitar soloing and it's right here. Perrett, Shetler and Piccolo add sax work making this a terrific track. The TBone Stomp is another trademark style track for Earl with his articulate and sometimes lagging off beat playing and a rock solid bottom by Michael Rush on bass. Want another slow, blues ballad. When Blue and Earl are in... I'm in. Peace of Mind is a real nice track with Blue's rich vocal playing off of Earl's response. This is a terrific track. With a serious lope, Bringing Light (To A Dark Time) has such a great feel. Blue's vocals are spot on and Earl sounds like he's a tiger waiting to pounce during his lead filler. With warm sax backing by Perrett and Shetler and Limina pushing, this is another excellent track. Wrapping the release is slow blues number, Blues for Charlottesville. With a firm bass line by Kochanski and Limina on Hammond, Earl is free to just play and he does play. This is an excellent closer for a really excellent release. 

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Let Me Put My Sugar Ray On You


Perhaps best remembered for his 24-year stint with Rhode Island's internationally renowned jump blues band Roomful of Blues, Greg Piccolo has followed his muse since his teenage years.

He joined his first band, The Rejects, at age 13, singing and playing a little alto sax. It was while with this band, playing a date at the Westerly, Rhode Island YMCA, that he met Duke Robillard. It was one of the defining moments in his life. He joined Duke in The Variations, and Duke introduced him to the work of such musicians as Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. Greg was already familiar with their songs from the covers recorded by the likes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Animals, but until Duke played Greg the originals, he was unaware of the wellspring of the blues. Greg started to drink from the source.

When Duke broke up The Variations, Greg hooked up with Al Copley and together they formed Groupe, an outfit that became popularly known as Greg and the Groupe. In keeping with the redefining sixties, neither an article nor an adjective preceded Groupe. During this period Duke Robillard very briefly led a band called The. Just for the record, this was before Monty Python.

Around the age of fifteen, Greg turned from alto to tenor, a move that was the result of his being transfixed by the tenor solo on Dion's "The Wanderer." Another defining moment.

After working with Duke in an early edition of Roomful of Blues, (a Roomful without horns – Greg played harp), he returned the following year with his tenor sax. He was nineteen, the year was 1970, and that was the time Greg notes, "I really started in on tenor sax. Duke made it happen; he was a strong musical leader."

Duke had heard Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson that summer at the Ann Arbor Blues festival, and had decided a horn band was the way to go. Rich Lataille (alto and tenor) joined Roomful the same time as Greg, and baritone player Doug James came on board the following year. The now legendary Roomful of Blues horn section was born.

From this point until his departure from Roomful in 1994, it is impossible to speak of Greg without mentioning Roomful and vice versa. During the seventies he took care of the band's booking and management, and when Duke left in 1979, he became bandleader, and for much of the time, the band's singer too.

It is from this period that one can say that Roomful's career really took off in an international sense, and Greg's singing – soulful, declamatory and passionate – coupled with a jaunty and energetic stage demeanor, won him fans all over the world. And of course, there was that battered old Selmer Mark VI, hanging from his neck, a tornado in the offing, an ever-present threat of mad abandon. His hard and driving take-no-prisoners sound on up tempo numbers caused pandemonium on the dance floor, while he could make the bouncers weep on a slow blues. Producer, critic and DJ ("Portraits in Blue") Bob Porter, who produced two of Roomful's Grammy nominated albums, noted "Pic has started a new tradition on tenor sax."

It was during the early 1980's that Greg started writing songs, and Roomful's 1984 release. "Dressed Up To Get Messed Up" broke new ground for the band in that most of the tunes came from his pen, and endowed the band with an artistic integrity that none could dispute. Greg had given Roomful of Blues, a band that could trace its musical influences back to the nineteen thirties, a contemporary edge that put it in the vanguard of roots based bands.

In 1990 Greg cut his first solo album "Heavy Juice" for Black Top Records. A collection of mainly instrumental cuts, it featured his tenor and garnered unanimous critical acclaim. Around this time he took up guitar, which he had dabbled with when a teenager, and fairly quickly developed a sound that could fairly be described as archetypical Piccolo. Just like his sound on sax, his sound on guitar emphasized tone and simplicity to tell a story.

Greg left Roomful in 1994 to follow his own particular musical vision. Greg Piccolo and Heavy Juice toured incessantly for the next five or six years, and cut two albums for Fantasy Records, "Acid Blue" (1995) and "Red Lights" (1997). The sound was more contemporary than his previous work and showed his willingness to experiment and to blaze new trails. Nevertheless, it was still music with a feeling. Both albums contained those Greg Piccolo staples that one had come to expect over the years. Finely crafted songs, tasty guitar, some raucous tenor, even a bit of alto, all heavily spiced throughout with soul and passion.

The continuing decline of venues across the nation ultimately took its toll, both on the size of the group, which started out as a quintet and ended up as a trio, and eventually on its economic viability too. By the time Greg released "Homage", his tribute to his tenor sax heroes, issued on his management company's Emit Doog label, he had hung up his touring shoes. He now cherry picks those dates he wants to play. He is in demand as a session player by the cognoscenti, although sadly in these days of downloads and general digital gloominess, the cognoscenti is undeniably diminishing. He recently finished a couple of sessions with Canadian superstar Colin James ("Little Big Band 3" and a Christmas album), and gets the occasional call from the likes of Jimmie Vaughan. For instance, he played on Jimmie's Grammy nominated "Ironic Twist."

Currently he is working on some big band arrangements of his tunes, and hopes to book some dates around that project in the summer of 2008. He plays New England dates with old band mates from Roomful occasionally, folks such as Carl Querfurth, Sugar Ray Norcia, Rich Lataille and Doug James.

His tone, sound, and outlook are unchanged, although these days he finds himself playing more ballads than before. It is still the sound and the feeling that drive him. And when he says, "Swing is closest to my heart" one has to stand back and look at what this man has done over the last forty years. In company with his Roomful compatriots, Greg Piccolo is one of the guys that reintroduced swing to America in a popular sense. The swing revival of the nineties would never have happened without Roomful of Blues pointing the way during the seventies and eighties.

Over his long career, Greg has played with scores of the legendary heroes of American music, and although he will emphatically deny it, he now has his own place in that pantheon.