Al Basile - B's Expression 

Singer songwriter en meester kornettist Al Basile heeft met het album B's Expression alweer zijn twaalfde album uitgebracht.

Het album werd geproduceerd door oude vriend Duke Robillard.

En wat een mooi album is het geworden. Al Basile weet dertien nummers lang te overtuigen. Vanuit het eerste moment horen we het enthousiasme en het vakmanschap terug. Alle nummers op B's Expression vertellen een verhaal en zijn door Al Basile zelf geschreven. Het is zeker de moeite waard de liner notes van het album aandachtig te lezen in combinatie met het beluisteren van de indrukwekkende teksten. De muziek klinkt zoals een bluesalbum zou moeten klinken , puur en oprecht.

Ik heb genoten van dit album en wat mij betreft is dit zonder twijfel een van de beste bluesalbums van 2015.


What's the first song you ever remember hearing? 

That would be Patti Page singing “Tennessee Waltz” on the radio around 1952. I was three or four.

When did you start composing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? 

I wrote a little instrumental in my head when I was about seven, and then stopped. When I was in college I wrote musicals with a writing partner who wrote the music – I wrote the book and lyrics. My first models were the great Broadway writers: Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, and Cole Porter. After I left Roomful of Blues in the mid-seventies I studied theory and taught myself to compose music to go with my lyrics. By then I was writing more in blues styles so my models were Willie Dixon, Percy Mayfield, T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, “Deadric Malone” and many others. Of course I was also influenced by the contemporary popular writers of the sixties like Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan – anyone who was writing what I considered excellent songs in different genres.

Do you typically write the lyrics first, or the melody?

the difference is between writing a song and composing?

I almost always start with a key phrase (which often ends up the title) for the hook of a song; it suggests a melody which I put against a rhythmic groove. After that the words and music follow together and suggest the form of a verse, chorus, or bridge. Using the key phrase to suggest the theme, and the form to give me limits on the phrasing, I generate the song thinking about the dramatic situation, character, or narrative. Sometimes I write the last verse before the middle ones and “write up” to it.

When I write instrumentals it's similar in that I start with a key melodic phrase and work forward from there, using the musical implications as a guide. 

In both cases I go back last and figure out the harmony to work with the already finished melody.

What makes you proud of the best song you’ve written the most ?

It's hard for me to pick the best song I've written out of a couple of hundred, but I'm especially proud of “Lie Down in Darkness, Raise Up in Light” and “Make a Little Heaven.” The first is a vocal collaboration with the Blind Boys of Alabama, and the second a duet with Sista Monica Parker which must be one of her last recordings. These two songs are gospel songs – I came to gospel in the Eighties and wrote a bunch of songs in the genre, but I didn't feel up to the task of singing in the style until I'd worked long and hard at it – it requires a different technique in a lot of ways. For me to fit in my own way vocally with such great masters of the genre was deeply satisfying. I'm grateful for having had the chance.

What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover? 

I was a playwright and novelist in my twenties, so I'm interested in character, situation, and narrative. I often try to boil a dramatic situation down to one person's statement in a difficult emotional state. That gives me a chance to be an actor. I look for universal emotions but very specific situations – there are lots of love and relationship songs but I try hard to find a different way of saying what's been said before, and to find things to say that haven't. I might use the metaphor of the Berlin Airlift to talk about being cut off from the supplies of love someone needs, for example. There are many other themes for songs as well – I have a song about what goes through the mind of a bank robber who is being chased by the police, which ends in a gunfight in which we know he is killed. Or a song addressed to Alexander Graham Bell because the singer has received such painful calls throughout his life he is conflicted about the fact that telephones were invented. The blues genre has spawned a lot of generic writing lately; I try hard to make every song of mine unique in some important way, whether that's theme, musical structure, vocal performance, use of language, arrangement, groove – no two are really alike if you take everything into consideration.

As a former longtime teacher, I also include a lesson in most of my songs – often a moral one – but I try to conceal it in a catchy, accessible musical style. So many people listen to how a song sounds rather than what a song means, and I want to have something for everyone on her or his own terms.

If you have to describe your music in there of four words,what would you call it?

Accessible; truthful; stealthy.

How did you become involved in the type of music you play?

I became friendly with Duke Robillard and (jazz tenor saxman) Scott Hamilton in my last year of college – they were local working musicians not connected to my University, and I'd go to see them play. I had played the trumpet as a child but given it up years before. 

After I graduated I went into the Army for a short time and when I returned to Providence my college friends had moved on, so I gravitated toward my native Rhode Island musical friends. Duke and Scott encouraged me to take up the horn again, and I had the chance to learn at my own pace. I started playing at jam sessions at Scott's house, and within a year or two Duke hired me as Roomful of Blues' first trumpet player. Many thanks to those two extraordinary friends!

What can people expect to see at your live performances?

I don't perform as much as I used to, and when I do nowadays it's close to home, but people will see me concentrating on the jazz standard repertoire as a singer and player, with a small number of my own songs mixed in. There are some live club clips at my YouTube channel albasile9 which illustrate the live show.

Do you have any fan comments of how your music or a song affected them?

My favorite recent comment came from an old friend who hasn't seen me in 30 years, who wrote me that she was stopped by the highway patrol because she was weaving around on the road while listening to my new CD. I'm glad no one was hurt!

If you could perform with anyone in the world, either dead or alive, or broke up who would it be? Why?

First - to take the second trumpet part, as Bobby Hackett occasionally did, behind Louis Armstrong, because Armstrong is my greatest influence as a player by leaps and bounds. He is the most profound, and I've learned everything I can from him over the last forty-five years (and still not really that much – I wish it was more).

Second – to play in Duke Ellington's trumpet section and be featured on plunger mute and open horn, because Duke always found a way to spotlight you at your very best, making liberal use of your strengths and masking your limitations by not requiring you to expose them.

What is the furthest show from your home that you have done?

I played with Duke Robillard in Memphis at the Blues Music Awards a few years ago, in Chicago several times, and in Iowa City – all halfway across America from my home in Rhode Island.