Bakelite 78

Bakelite 78

 Seattle, Washington, USA
BandAmericanaJazz

Bakelite 78 captures the feel of eras gone by with original and standards in jazz/roots americana. Rial channels the ghosts of classic crooners while playing tenor guitar/tenor banjo along with a "small big band" with drums, upright bass, clarinet trumpet!!

Band Press

New CDs from Bonnie, Bakelite, Alabama Shakes | New CDs – The Seattle Times

Bakelite 78, "What the Moon Has Done" (Bakelite)

Bakelite 78 — named after the plastic once used to make 78 rpm records — is all about Robert Rial, a gifted singer and guitarist whose voracious appetite for vintage music ranges from cabaret and hokum to Jazz Age crooning, rockabilly and New Orleans trad. Rial, who regularly holds forth at the Pike Place Market's Pink Door, has taken a leap with his new CD, a highly-arranged concept album brimming with bravura trumpet, dark tales of woe and Brechtian menace.

Without seeing the jacket notes, you'd think the material had been retrieved from old records, but, remarkably, Rial and his musical partner, vocalist Erin Jordan, wrote these songs. They have an uncanny ability to get their heads inside antique styles. The cutesy lingo of "The Cat's Meow," complete with clickety woodblocks, could easily have come from 1926 sheet music; "Dark Spot," from 1928 Nashville "hillbilly" angst; and "Country Cruisin'," Sun studios, 1956.

Bakelite doesn't just do old music, it seems to inhabit the past. "Monongah," a minor lament with stunning trumpet lines, regales that West Virginia mining disaster like it happened last week, "Tale of a Missouri Girl" revisits the midwest-lass-goes-to-Hollywood story line with affectionate good humor; and the macabre "World's Fair Hotel," in the voice of 1893 World's Fair serial killer, H.H. Holmes, resonates eerily. Tom Waits, anyone? "Las Vegas Bay Lament" makes a visit to that funhouse mirror, too. Scary stuff, and though overarranged here and there, the music is delivered with conviction and panache.

--Paul de Barros, Seattle Times music critic

New CDs from Bonnie, Bakelite, Alabama Shakes | New CDs – The Seattle Times

Bakelite 78, "What the Moon Has Done" (Bakelite)

Bakelite 78 — named after the plastic once used to make 78 rpm records — is all about Robert Rial, a gifted singer and guitarist whose voracious appetite for vintage music ranges from cabaret and hokum to Jazz Age crooning, rockabilly and New Orleans trad. Rial, who regularly holds forth at the Pike Place Market's Pink Door, has taken a leap with his new CD, a highly-arranged concept album brimming with bravura trumpet, dark tales of woe and Brechtian menace.

Without seeing the jacket notes, you'd think the material had been retrieved from old records, but, remarkably, Rial and his musical partner, vocalist Erin Jordan, wrote these songs. They have an uncanny ability to get their heads inside antique styles. The cutesy lingo of "The Cat's Meow," complete with clickety woodblocks, could easily have come from 1926 sheet music; "Dark Spot," from 1928 Nashville "hillbilly" angst; and "Country Cruisin'," Sun studios, 1956.

Bakelite doesn't just do old music, it seems to inhabit the past. "Monongah," a minor lament with stunning trumpet lines, regales that West Virginia mining disaster like it happened last week, "Tale of a Missouri Girl" revisits the midwest-lass-goes-to-Hollywood story line with affectionate good humor; and the macabre "World's Fair Hotel," in the voice of 1893 World's Fair serial killer, H.H. Holmes, resonates eerily. Tom Waits, anyone? "Las Vegas Bay Lament" makes a visit to that funhouse mirror, too. Scary stuff, and though overarranged here and there, the music is delivered with conviction and panache.

--Paul de Barros, Seattle Times music critic

Also Tonight- Bakelite 78 – www.seattleshogal.com

From the moment I walked into the Pink Door last Tuesday night, I felt transported into a rare world I recognized, but had never actually been to. A world of meager copyright regulation, and a time when the music industry cared more for selling sheet music to small time performers than for creating a brand-name out of a musician. Obviously a far cry from the Corporate Pop-Star idol worship we now suffer through presently.

The Pink Door isn’t typically associated with music shows, and it was a surprising to hear that entertainment was on the menu. Upon entry in the bar at The Pink Door, it became clear that The Pink Door is also a venue. It felt like an early 1900’s bar, complete with low lighting. It’s hard to actually give Robert Rial and Bakelite 78’s a specific label. Rial himself had a hard time describing his music within the bounds of genre specification. They play songs spanning jazz, blues, country and early rock and roll. The term “Bakelite” refers to an old form of plastic, and “78” is a reference to the RPM of old records that “Tin Pan Alley” music used to be recorded on.

The entire band was dressed in coats and ties, top hats and the women in frilly dresses. They all dressed the part of a relatively obscure music scene. The band performed with a trumpet, stand up bass, guitar, clarinet, drummer, and a pianist. Their sound was lively, engaging, and broad. I was riveted and watched the band for the entire time I was there, but there were many patrons at The Pink Door that were simply enjoying drinks with their friends, barely looking at the stage. Bakelite 78 makes music that is technically executed and appears simple, yet is deceptively complex. The band seamlessly changed gears from bluesy rock to jazz. It felt like being shown a documentary film about pre-Depression era America. The singer of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Jimbo Mathus, produced and contributed to the last Bakelite 78 album.

Bakelite 78 ended their set with a rendition of the classic “Goodnight Irene”, a sad and solemn goodbye to a lost love. Robert’s voice cried with every note. “Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene, I’ll see you in my dreams…” Perhaps the only place we can experience the world from which the Bakelite 78 still live.

Pink Door's tiny stage can't stifle the style of Bakelite 78 – The Seattle Times

By Michael Upchurch
Seattle Times arts writer

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CONCERT REVIEW
Bakelite 78

It's a bit like that scene from "A Night at the Opera" where the Marx Brothers and assorted guests all stuff themselves into a very small stateroom: Seattle's Bakelite 78 may only have six members, but it's an incredibly tight squeeze for them on the tiny stage at The Pink Door.

Still, the crowded quarters don't seem to cramp the band's style.

Bakelite 78 is the Tuesday house band at The Pink Door through the end of September and perhaps beyond. Led by singer-guitarist Robert J. Rial, members are quite a sight to behold.

Rial, in shiny gray tux, bow tie, burgundy cummerbund, silver shoes and towering top hat, has a voice that goes from sleepy-balladeer tenor to a neo-Tom Waits growl with the turn of a phrase.

He can certainly belt it out — but he can be silky-voiced, too, as he lilts his way through musical fare that ranges from New Orleans-flavored ragtime to gypsy tunes to Depression-era classics ("Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"). And there's a gleefully macabre edge to some of his original tunes.

"I took her on the Ferris wheel/And out for her last meal," he croons in "The World's Fair Hotel," a song inspired by Seattle author Erik Larson's true-crime best-seller, "The Devil in the White City." In another number, "What the Moon Has Done to Me" — about a werewolf haunted and confused by "bloody thoughts I can't escape" — Rial's poker-faced delivery adds to the fun.

Rial is also a song archivist a la Ry Cooder or Thomas Lauderdale (of Pink Martini), digging up both well-known and obscure ditties from the early 20th century and lending them his own maverick touch.

He gets nicely tonic harmonic backup from his wife, singer-songwriter-accordionist-pianist Erin Jordan, and solid grounding from the heavily tattooed Austin Quist, an affable giant of a fellow who looms over the rest of the band with his double bass and ceiling-scraping sousaphone. (Quist is co-writer with Rial on one of the group's best new originals, "Dark Spots.")

Steven Baz lays down a lazily swinging/swaggering beat on the drums, while Ashley Komoda does duty on clarinet and alto sax and Erik Reed delivers some knockout solos on the trumpet.

All six musicians dress for the part in a setting that, with its candelabra, multiple mirrors and backdrop curtains, looks a like the parlor of a Victorian brothel squashed into a corner of the Pink Door bar.

Bakelite 78 was originally Chicago-based. Rial's new Seattle lineup is scheduled to record a CD in September. At a break in the show, when I asked Komoda how the band keeps it together on such a minuscule stage, she joked that performers and instruments occasionally fall off it.

And when I asked how Rial, flanked by two lit candles on shoulder-high candlesticks, manages to avoid setting his guitar neck on fire, she wisecracked, "That's the finale."

Note: There's no cover charge, but the idea is that patrons should avail themselves of the Pink Door's bar and tasty menu while listening.

The Treatment Jan. 27th, 2006 – The Chicago Reader

Friday 27
BAKELITE 78 This local five-piece acoustic act takes its name from 78-rpm records and Bakelite, the plastic that was occasionally used to make them. They're playing the Hideout to celebrate their self-released debut, It's a Sin, a fantastic collection of old-timey music played in dedicatedly retro fashion. Not that front man Robert Rial always writes or delivers songs like they're museum pieces: "Homicide Survivor's Abomination Wail" has a ripped-from-the-headlines savagery that references Glocks and restraining orders, and his rendition of the traditional lullaby "All the Pretty Little Horses" reminds me of the guest turn Nick Cave did on Current 93's version. My Damn Butterfly and the Black Bear Combo open. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $7. --Monica Kendrick

Around Hear, Monthly-Local CD Reviews-June 30, 2006 – Illinois Entertainer

Combining elements of Vaudeville, country, and classic rock in a time when every other new band on the planet either cites the Rolling Stones or Joy Division as influences, Bakelite 78 is distinctive to say the least. Armed with the unique and stylized vocals of guitarist Robert Rial and a one-of-a-kind brass section, track for track this self-titled full-length is charming and infectious. (www.bakelite78.com)
– Dean Ramos

Around Hear, Monthly-Local CD Reviews-June 30, 2006 – Illinois Entertainer

Combining elements of Vaudeville, country, and classic rock in a time when every other new band on the planet either cites the Rolling Stones or Joy Division as influences, Bakelite 78 is distinctive to say the least. Armed with the unique and stylized vocals of guitarist Robert Rial and a one-of-a-kind brass section, track for track this self-titled full-length is charming and infectious. (www.bakelite78.com)
– Dean Ramos

Bakelite 78-"Delta Disc" – www.sepiachord.com

In brief: I love this CD to death. It manages to evoke a wide variety of early jazz/blues/country/etc stylings without ever sounding dusty or staid. Recommended.

Upon first pass a listener may be excused for primarily hearing "Delta Disc" as a recording of some (lamentably) lost olde time variety show. If that were the case it would be a *great* lost radio broadcast.

But there's more to this collection than that. There is a vibrancy and clarity that keeps this a vital recording. There's passion here, not just the clinical eye of preservationists.

The first thing that knocked me back was Robert Rial's voice. He has the voice of an intinerant minstrel: solid, strong, down-home yet with a range and timbre applicable to a stunning variety of occasions. He sounds like a crooner fronting a ragtime band on "When it's Darkness on the Delta" and conjures the ghost of the legendary Phil Ochs on "Brown Recluse Girl"... this isn't a compliment I throw around lightly. (Do note that the woodwind work on this track does help invoke the spirit of the late Ochs.) In between Rial exhibits his deftness with whatever blues, jazz, country or folk is thrown at him.

That variety is what keeps the album percolating through-out. "I Truly Understand" (perhaps my favorite track found here) sways with vintage counry swagger, their take on "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" has a jazzy cool that maintains this songs position as a classic, then there's the parched throat blues "Dry County, the traditional "Katie Dear" hints at gospel and, most remarkably, they manage to devise an honest-to-god *protest* song in the venomous "The President Cannot be Reached".

Like many greats before them Bakelite 78 find themselves drawn to that King of American Dark Underbelly Music: The Murder Ballad.

They take on two, "The World's Fair Hotel" and "Long Black Veil".

"The World's Fair Hotel" closes out "Delta Disc" with its rollicking vaudeville and circus-tinged take on the tale of serial-killer H.H. Holmes. If you've read the excellent book "The Devil in the White City" you know what fertile ground there is for telling the story of a killer who stalked the Chicago World's Fair. Bakelite 78 do not disappoint, capturing this strange tale in a snap-shot filled with visual potency.

It also proves that they have some common ground with Seattle's The Bad Things.

The band's intrepretation of "Long Black Veil" is what solidified this album's status for me. This is one of my favorite songs, and one I've heard covered over and over again. But Bakelite 78 manage to give it a freshness by a subtle temp shift and amazing horn work. How-the-hell has popular music managed to go this long without a resurgence of muted trumpet? I'm mystified.

Did I say Recommened yet? Because I should have.