This Friday, at Harcourt Memorial United Church (87 Dean Avenue), local virtuoso guitarist Adrian Raso celebrates the release of his latest CD, Gypsybilly King. The record contains Raso’s signature Gypsy Jazz style, but this time he’s brought something new to the table, a fusion of Gypsy Jazz and Rockabilly. He calls it Gypsybilly. The Gypsybilly King is an extension of that, and is a character that helped inspire the record.
“Lots of people ask me ‘are you saying you’re the Gypsybilly King?’” Raso explains. “No. What I’m saying is that it’s a character. When I’m writing tunes, I need a visual reference. I used to cut out visuals of things that would inspire the song. So I thought for this one, I’d carry on from Devil’s Tale, which had that original Vince Ray artwork on it. So I thought that this was a character that would kind of continue from there. Then a journalist in Germany mentioned that I’m fusing these two styles and that it’s never really been done, and that what would we call it? Half Rockabilly, Half Gypsy, Gypsybilly? So there it was.”
To be fair, Raso has had elements of Rockabilly shade his previous releases. He’s even released Rockabilly records.
“This has been something that I’ve done for years. In the sense that it was developing for years, because I loved playing Gypsy stuff, and of course I loved all of the Rockabilly players.”
This time, not only has he brought that influence to the fore, but the title track brings in Lee Rocker of The Stray Cats to help him declare it’s authenticity.
“I’ve worked with Lee in the past, and it was great to have him work on this,” he says, referencing their 2011 collaboration, Dead Man’s Hand.
Drums on the record are provided by Michael Bland formerly of Prince’s New Power Generation band. A lifelong Prince fan, it’s no surprise that Raso and Bland’s playing fit together so well.
“I worked with him on the Play for the Cat record, so I put the bug in his ear at that time and he said he’d never done gypsy music, or anything even remotely close to this.” Raso says. “I’m sure over the years he’d had to have played some Rockabilly, and I know Prince would sometimes fool around with some old grooves, but not traditional Rockabilly. So I asked him if he’d be interested in doing something like that, and he said he was on board.”
“Everybody was saying ‘You’re going to put Prince’s drummer with Lee Rocker and it’s gonna work?’ And I was saying Yeah. They’re such great players, that how can it not?”
For those who have seen Raso play before, they’re in for a night of stunning fretwork, melodies that you’ll be singing for days afterward, as well as something Adrian has wanted to add to his live show for a while.
“We’re going to have a violinist from Montreal. I’ve played with fiddle players before, but this is a violinist who plays in the style of Grapelli.” He says, referencing Django Reinhardt’s longtime collaborator, Stéphane Grapelli, at the Hot Club in France in the 20s and 30s.
“The thing that we’re going to be doing for the first time is trying a bunch of material that we’ve never played before, so that’s going to be real fun for us. The thing is, with the Devil’s Tale tour, you end up playing a lot of the same material night after night. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but you do evolve,” Adrian explains. “I viewed a lot of that album as a snapshot of featured songs from all my previous albums, but played through the filter of this great Balkan band. The thing is I’ve been playing all of these songs for close to 15 years. This is nice because it’s all brand new for me. We’ll still be playing some of the old stuff, but it’ll be a nice mix of new and old.”
Tickets are $25 in advance, or $30 at the door. available at www.adrianraso.net and Good Times Hair Styles at 83 Surrey Street E.