Album review: Al Basile’s ‘B’s Expression’ celebrates the heyday of Memphis soul

Multi-threat cornetist Al Basile delivers another strong record in “B’s Expression,” which celebrates the Memphis soul sounds of the 1960s.

Basile has been dazzling the population with his artistic abilities since he began playing trumpet for Duke Robillard in the premier Rhode Island jump band Roomful of Blues. Since then he has performed with soul, jazz and blues greats as Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Helen Humes, Joe Turner and Johnny Shines, and in 1998 even started his own record company, Sweetspot Records.

Al BasileBut there is more than music running through Basile’s blood. He is also a very talented writer, being the first to graduate from Brown University with a masters in creative writing. He has been a widely published poet and fiction writer who has also written for the stage and radio. He can woe you with both his music and his words, something he does with great frequency on “B’s Expression.”

Throughout the album, Basile brings a refined touch to the classic sounds of Memphis. “Whole Lot Of Good Good Lovin” is a steamy blues number that sashays through the din of a hole-in-the-wall blues club with attitude and purpose. “Have I Given My Best” ponders life in a gospel-toned confessional that lightly lifts into the breeze on a succinct solo on the trumpet from Basile. He has a fantastic appreciation of the music that came before him, but Basile injects his own personality and humanity into the songs, making them feel fresh and immediate.

One way he does this is through a gentle mixing of sounds that lets songs stand alone. The shuffle on “I Didn’t Come Here to Lie” wraps a funky, Meters-like organ in a package of bluesy guitar and soulful horns, with a slight spice of jazz with Basile’s muted solos. Elsewhere, “Not Like I Do” strolls along to soulful melody that is rooted in a steady blues piano riff  and “Somethin’s Missing” is a strong cocktail of Motown rhythm and Stax groove on the rocks.

Basile also uses his strengths as a songwriter to tell stories that relate on many different levels. “Even Jesus Fell” is a tender reminder that there is redemption in all of us, even “when my best is not enough and “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Being Right” explores the turmoil inherent in philandering around town. His strength as a storyteller goes beyond his words as well, and the ease and confidence in his delivery on the subdued blues of “You Know You Don’t Know”  creates an intimate atmosphere that isn’t fully realized with just the words and music.

Basile’s work on “B’s Expression” is a winning combination of his talented songwriting and musicality. He is a true artist who expresses himself in a myriad of spectacular ways.

 

  • Al Basile
    “B’s Expression”
    Release: Sept. 18, 2015
    Label: Sweetspot Records
    Notable Tracks: “I Didn’t Come Here to Lie,” “You Know You Don’t Know”
    Purchase: LINK

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Picture of Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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