Basile has been one of the better-known horn players
in the blues biz since he got his start back in the early days
of Roomful of Blues. He's never strayed far from those early New
England roots with his solo career, often using former Roomful
band members on his albums, including guitarist and producer
B's Time (Sweetspot Records) is a
compilation of 17 songs from the 19 albums he's released in the
last 25 years, each one showcasing his sublime cornet playing
and his blues/jazz hipster vocals that suit the material well.
As expected, there's a "who's who" of blues session players
backing Basile on the album, too many names to mention here. The
album comes with extensive liner notes, so you'll want to go old
school and get the CD copy of the album instead of a digital
download in order to get the complete
scoop behind each song and who's playing what.
Basile wrote 16 of the 17 songs, with the lone
cover being the slow, jazzy "Don't Wait Too Long," penned by Sunny Skylar. This late night keeper features Fred Bates with the
tasteful jazz guitar solos and Marty Ballou with restrained but
effective bass accompaniment. Rich Lataille contributes a
beautiful sax solo. It's one of only two songs on which Basile
doesn't play his horn, but there's so much happening here that
it's not missed.
Perhaps the best song on B's Time is one
from the time that Basile delved into gospel music, when The
Blind Boys Of Alabama joined in on the beautiful, soulful "Lie
Down In Darkness," with his vocals taken to new heights while
Bruce Bears takes it to church on piano. Jerry Portnoy brings
his always great harmonica playing to a slow, old timey blues,
"Hooray For Me," with Matt McCabe rounding out the trio on
Duke Robillard showcases his strong blues guitar licks
on the slow blues, "I Really Miss You," with Basile packing
plenty of emotion into his vocals. It's the other cut on the
album that doesn't include his cornet playing, but again, it's
not needed here as Robillard gets more space to tear it up with
multiple strong guitar solos. "B.D." is a mid-tempo jazz
instrumental that gives Basile and pianist Paul Odeh the chance
to show off their chops.
The mid-tempo blues "Losing My Cool" gets a
little funky and soulful, with guest Bruce Katz contributing a
strong organ solo and Lataille and Doug James both coming in
with their respective saxes. Basile gets extra soulful on another album
highlight, the feelgood vibes of "Make A Little Heaven,"
with Sista Monica Parker helping out on vocals. Our star puts
out a very nice cornet solo while James and Lataille pack a lot
of sax into the background.
Bears opens "You Don't Know Lonesome" with nice
gospel-style piano, leading into Basile's vocals proclaiming
"... you don't know lonesome if you don't know me ..." I had to
check twice to make sure that this wasn't a Ray Charles
composition, because I could certainly imagine it being
from the Genius himself.
I could go on and on, but instead will advise
you to get B's Time and cherish all 17 songs in the
comfort of your own stereo system. Repeated listening to this
collection will likely inspire you to dig even deeper into his
catalog. He's got plenty of good music to his credit, with
B's Time being the best place to start exploring that rich
--- Bill Mitchell