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Freddy Robinson Passes
By Robert Putignano

Freddy Robinson Passes

Freddy Robinson left us on October 8 after a bout with cancer. He was seventy. Robinson had a very unique musical journey that started in Chicago at Chess records in 1958, recording with Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf, and Mighty Joe Young. He also recorded his own forty-fives in 1962, one for the Chess subsidiary Checker Records. During his Chess tenure, Robinson recorded on dates with Willie Dixon, Otis Spann, Louis and Dave Myers, Luther Tucker, Hubert Sumlin, Robert Lockwood, Phil Upchurch, Monk Higgins, and others. He moved to the West Coast in 1968 and continued his affiliation with Monk Higgins who arranged The Coming Atlantis (later titled Black Fox) for the World Pacific Jazz label, which (for the most part) ended his hardcore Blues affiliations.

This was a decisive change. Robinson was now recording with R&B jazz musicians like Joe Sample, Wilton Felder, Ernie Watts, Harvey Mason, Blue Mitchell, John Guerin, Gene Harris, Stanley Turrentine, Groove Holmes, Tom Scott, and the Jazz Crusaders. But the Blues called Freddy again, and he also recorded with Jimmy McCracklin in 1969, Shakey Jake Harris, and Jazz Blues Fusion with John Mayall, which was a delicious mixture that exemplifies where Blues meets jazz, and arguably Robinson’s most recognized body of work. There were three recordings with Bobby Bland, plus Smackwater Jack with Quincy Jones, and he spent years on the road with Ray Charles. There are some excellent Robinson solos on Brother Ray’s live recording It’s A Blues Thing on Monad Records which also features Billy Preston and Esther Phillips. Freddy’s final recording came as a sideman on Mitch Kashmir’s 2005 Nickels & Dimes for Delta Groove.

Robinson had five full length album under his own name. His last The Real Thing at Last was credited to his Muslim name Abu Talib, plus one Ace Records import compilation Bluesology.

About a week after Robinson’s passing, I was with Hubert Sumlin who was not aware of Robinson’s passing, but after choking up a bit, said, “Oh Lord, I didn’t know. I got to work with Freddy. He was a great player. Freddy did the original ‘Spoonful’ with the Wolf, and a lot more. And don’t forget his work with Ray Charles. Freddy was a special guy.”

Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at www.SoundsofBlue.com. Bob may be contacted at blueswax@visnat.com.

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