Liner notes by Paul Shelasky
It is my pleasure to help unveil a musical duo that certainly
qualifies as on of the "best kept secrets" in acoustic jazz. Rick
Shubb and Bob Wilson have for the last thirty years been much
better known among their musical peers than to the general public,
but hopefully this fine CD will remedy the latter situation.
I first heard the Shubb-Wilson trio about 1970, and their music
is still as fresh and unique today. It can truly be said about
Rick and Bob on their respective instruments that each sounds
like nobody else; each has an instantly recognizable style.
The Shubb-Wilson trio has heretofore been represented on disc
by one LP produced in 1976. Rick and Bob have been playing almost
steadily from then until now, but never the full-scale touring
or recording that their talents deserve.
Bob has been a full-time teacher in the public schools while
still finding time to play with Rick as well as electric top-forty
gigs and various trad-jazz and swing dates.
Rick played in and led many bluegrass bands in California and
Oregon until about 1980 when he gave up full-time performing to
develop a line of music products which has become highly successful
worldwide. Ironically, while Rick put his performing career on
the back-burner, his name has become a household word to every
bluegrass banjo player and acoustic guitarist of every conceivable
style. I think all these musicians will be curious to finally
hear the man behind the name!
Rick credits the great Earl Scruggs as his major influence on
banjo. I believe that Rick is considered by his peers to be among
the earliest exponents of the "melodic" style of banjo. Certainly
by the early 1970s Rick's style was fully-formed, and he was beginning
to explore jazz.
The writer has played in various bands with Rick since 1971,
and I believe myself well-qualified to comment on his style. Rick's
style is characterized by a delicacy of touch and an evenness
of articulation. His timing is precise and steady. He has developed
his own very considerable arsenal of "licks," and as I have said
before, his playing is always instantly recognizable.
Few five-string banjo players have attempted to play jazz, and
fewer still have succeeded. It is only in the last few years that
a handful of players have won recognition for the banjo from the
jazz audience. When Rick plays jazz, he never loses sight of the
inherent qualities of the five-string banjo. He uses banjo technique
and doesn't sound like a guitarist. He plays the right changes
and he swings, but it always sounds like a banjo.
Bob Wilson first picked up the guitar at age twelve, playing
country and rock'n'roll. In his early twenties he embarked on
a pop/rock singing career, recording several sides on the major
independent label ERA. Bob got considerable airplay and did many
TV appearances, and seemed on the verge of stardom. He was drawn
to jazz, though, and went on to become a fine, straight-ahead
guitarist, usually playing a hollow-body electric.
It was only after meeting Rick that Bob began to play gigs on
the acoustic. Unlike many guitarists who have considerable experience
on electric, Bob gets a big, full-bodied tone on his acoustic
and it's the same on any guitar he picks up. I believe even the
casual listener will notice how unusual and full Bob's tone is,
especially on chordal solos, and this quite apart from his obvious
technical mastery and sense of swing.
Bob's sound on the acoustic was first influenced by Hank Snow
and Merle Travis. (Merle, incidentally, plays on four of Bob's
early 45 recordings.) Other early guitar influences on Bob's style
were Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, George Van Eps, Tal
Farlow, and Johnny Smith. On one fateful day in 1960, Bob met
both Barney Kessel and the yet undiscovered Wes Montgomery, both
of whom became major influences on his playing.
Guest bassist Charlie Warren is also well known to the writer,
who played along side him for the last five years of his fourteen
year stint at Disneyland. Charlie began his bass/tuba studies
at age eleven and along the way mastered many baroque and renaissance
instruments as well.
Charlie's playing on this CD is typically understated and swinging.
His intonation is precise and his sound is big and full. One of
the most sought-after musicians in both the jazz and classical
Los Angeles music scene, Charlie was the perfect choice for Bodega
Rick and Bob's first gig together was on Halloween, 1969 at the
Freight and Salvage Coffee House in Berkeley, Ca. As the 30th
anniversary of their collaboration approaches, their many longtime
fans and admirers will welcome this, their first CD, and a host
of new admirers will discover California's "best-kept secret"
...the music of Rick Shubb and Bob Wilson!