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Road Song

Rob Ickes

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Album Review

Acclaimed dobro player Rob Ickes presents his fifth CD as a leader on his own label, mostly in a jazz context, with the swing and twang you'd likely expect from this master of his instrument. The curveball is that Ickes plays with no rhythm section, but almost exclusively in duets with fellow Nashville compadre, pianist Michael Alvey. In an attempt to, as Ickes puts it, get closer to the heart of jazz melodies, he's picked some great tunes in the swing to post-bop style, with the occasional nod to his countrified heritage. Alvey is a good player, not outstanding, and is careful not to trip up and extend himself very far improvisationally, or in rendering the basic melodies of these selections. While Ickes has not mastered the art of improvising, he's always making a good go of it, stretching melody lines sensibly and with good taste. Ickes and Alvey play these tunes faithfully to the point, whether it be Wes Montgomery numbers like the title track and the fine unison version of "West Coast Blues," a sonically inverted, resonant take on Horace Silver's "Song for My Father," or Duke Ellington favorites like the lithe and quick "Caravan," or the good swinger "Take the 'A' Train," where the intro is repeated and the dobro takes the unlikely lead. Inevitably, you can't take the country out of the boy, as the down-home Hank Williams evergreen "You Win Again," a Willie Nelson-styled version of "If I Had You," and the ballad "The Nearness of You" are brought into a different light by the singing of Robinella. A naive vocalist with little range, substance, or soul; it would have been a better move to just do these tunes sans lyrics. The most surprising choice is Oscar Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom," a lovely, reverent, gospel-like composition that Ickes and Alvey could someday expand into a truly genre-busting, broader repertoire. Ickes seems on the cusp of making jazz his forté, and though others like David Grisman and Béla Fleck have turned country-swing fusion into an individualistic sound, it will be interesting to see where this marriage of American rural and black classical sounds will lead him next time 'round. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Road Song, Rob Ickes
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