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Adrian Raso is bringing the Gypsybilly King to church

In this Arts and Culture feature we catch up with Adrian Raso and his band as they rehearse for a CD launch party and video shoot Friday Feb 7 and their upcoming European tour
2020 02 03 GT – Arts and Culture Adrian Raso Gypsybilly King – TB 02
Tyler Belluz, Kristin Raso and Adrian Raso are performing material from Raso's latest record Gypsybilly King during a CD launch and video shoot at Harcourt Church, Friday Feb. 7. Troy Bridgeman/GuelphToday

On his latest record, guitarist Adrian Raso pulls together a number of influences ranging from delta blues and rockabilly to gypsy jazz, classical, Latin, rock and funk to create a hybrid style he has collectively coined as gypsybilly. 

“It was a German journalist who originally put that in my head,” said Raso.  “He said it was, ‘a perfect mesh. What genre would you call it ?’ He called it gypsybilly and it clicked. So, we came up with this idea.”     

The concept developed into 13 tracks of new material for the regally titled Gypsybilly King. 

It is Raso’s 10th record and his second release on the Asphalt Tango Records label. The first, Devil’s Tale, released in 2016, was a critically acclaimed collaboration with the 12-piece Balkan brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia from Romania. 

“We wanted to expand on what we did with Devil’s Tale minus the horns,” said Raso. “We wanted to make an album that was a little more string-based. There is a lot of violin”  

The violin looms large on four tracks with German-based educator and renowned gypsy jazz violinist Christiaan van Hemert. He has played with several gypsy jazz artists and is a regular guest performer with the Rosenberg Trio. Hemert is considered an expert on the Dutch Style of gypsy jazz and teaches music at the Rotterdam University of the Arts.

Legendary bassist and Grammy nominee Lee Rocker plays on the title track, Gypsybilly King, and on the closing tune Allumette. Apart from being rockabilly royalty as a founding member of the Stray Cats, Rocker has played with Carl Perkins, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson, Keith Richards and Scotty Moore.

Bass duties are filled on the remaining 11 tracks by Guelph musician Tyler Belluz, a classically-trained double bassist who has played with the Calgary Symphony Orchestra as well as a number of local rock, jazz and pop bands. 

“Ya, Lee plays all the good bass lines,” said Raso, ribbing Belluz. “Tyler played upright on a lot of the stuff on this album and, of course, it sounds really good.” 

Drums are played by Michael Bland who spent seven years backing up Prince in the New Power Generation and is presently playing with Nick Jonas and the Administration as well as Soul Asylum. He has done session work with many other artists including Mandy Moore, David Crosby and Jonny Lang. 

Raso and Bland worked together in 2018 on a project with Guelph songwriter Mike Levy called Play for the Cat. 

“Michael B has never had the chance to play on a gypsy-style record so he was totally up for the challenge,” said Raso. “He is on the whole album and it turned out great. It’s all-new material and it is the first record where we had guest vocalists.”

Vocal duties are taken up on a cover of Louis Armstrong’s St. James Infirmary by R&B singer Tamara Marshall and on two original tunes, Dark Waltz and Allumette by folk-rock singer-songwriter Christine Zufferey.

“I toured with Christine in Mexico and we performed at an after-party together,” said Raso. “We hit it off and I said I have to get you on something so, we put these tracks together.” 

The show Friday will feature Guelph guitarist and long-time Raso collaborator Lore Bortolon, Belluz and Kristin Raso on drums. There will be accompanying performances by dancer Ishra Blanco and the Invoketress Dancers and visual effects produced by Versa Visuals.

They are filming the show to produce a music video as well as promotional material for their upcoming European tour. They are encouraging people to come out and be extras in the videos. 

Gypsybilly King has been climbing the World Music charts in Europe since its official release in October and Raso is looking forward to playing the new songs for his fans. During the 2016 tour for Devil’s Tale, they played every country in Europe and built a large fan base.

“This is technically our first show with the new material,” said Raso. “We haven’t done anything in a while to lead up to this so once we have the footage we will send it off to Europe and the promoters there will start booking us. The idea is to kind of continue where we left off.”

For advance tickets or to order a copy of Gypsybilly King visit: