Al Basile, whose previous albums have generated multiple Blues Music Award nominations, announces an August 19 release date for his latest CD, Mid-Century Modern, on Sweetspot Records. Produced by Duke Robillard (who also guests on guitar on two tracks), Mid-Century Modern showcases Al Basile’s vocals and cornet on 13 all-original songs, and backed by a stellar band that includes “Monster” Mike Welch – guitar; Bruce Bears – keyboards; Brad Hallen – bass; Mark Teixeira – drums; and a horn section of Doug James – baritone, tenor sax, bass clarinet; Rich Lataille – alto, tenor sax; and Jeff “Doc” Chanonhouse – trumpet.
“I wrote these songs over a 14-day period last summer right after finishing the Knickerbocker All Stars project, where we did a lot of classic R&B and blues material that featured horn solos,” recalls Al Basile, who also did all the horn arrangements on his new disc. “That got me thinking about the repertoire we played in Roomful of Blues in the Seventies and how much fun it was to solo over those grooves. Thought I'd write a bunch of songs that I could stretch out on the horn a little more than I usually do. It was like writing a bunch of stories about old friends. And using my horn as well as my voice to tell them,” he adds.
Al Basile's musical values were developed in the 1950s and ‘60s, and his work shows the influences of blues, jazz, soul and gospel music of that era, as well as that of the generation before his birth. His new CD is built on that American roots music of the middle of the 20th century and features the lyric writing of a great contemporary storyteller who also happens to be an award-winning poet. Mid-Century Modern is built to last, with Al handling the soulful vocals and the lion's share of the solo work on his bluesy, succinct cornet (his five BMA nominations since 2010 are testament to his unique potency on the horn). Those conversant with the last century will notice classic musical influences including Louis Jordan, Buddy Johnson, Richard Berry, Albert King, Lee Dorsey and Slim Harpo – but the message of these songs is Al Basile's alone. They are like no other.
“You don't hear the cornet much in blues these days, but it does go back to Buddy Bolden after all,” says Basile. “Brass players were known to play blues all the time in early days of jazz and blues. My horn sound is another voice to me. I'm a baritone – I don't sing that high. And I play a big bore cornet – I don't play that high, either. It's not always the tenor that gets the aria!”
Al Basile’s talent for writing songs of both poignancy and humor abound throughout the tracks on Mid-Century Modern. Some examples of the former include “Like You or Despise You,” “No Truth to the Rumor,” “Listen to the Elders” and “Lie Under the House with Me.” And Basile’s knack of seeing the humor in certain situations materialize on the opening song, “Keep Your Love, Where’s My Money?,” “Tickle My Mule,” “I’ve Got to Have Meat (with Every Meal” and “Like a Woman, Like a Man.”
About “Like You or Despise You,” Basile states: “Not everyone plays poker but we all have our own version of the face. Some people, of course, are better at hiding their true feelings than others. I’m not sure how often people are given fair warning that they should be wary of a friendly smile, but it’s surprising how few pay attention when told straight out. It’s certainly easier to take people at face value – but oh the bills that arrive later!”
And Basile declares “Tickle My Mule” to be “a metaphor about the Mind/Body dialogue designed to remind us that we may have an excellent idea of how we ought to feel about someone else, but if they lack that je ne sais quoi, we just won’t feel it. I think this lyric puts it more succinctly, and it’s certainly more fun to sing (and imagine).”