Tad Robinson Band Personifies Soulful Blues Aesthetic

April 9, 2024

Tad Robinson Band – Courtesy of Rich Vorhees. Used with permission.

Tad Robinson – Courtesy of Rich Vorhees. Used with permission.

Not only was Friday night at the venerable Jazz Kitchen special because it was the 30th Anniversary weekend of the venue, but it had been years since I attended a blues performance.  But it wasn’t just an average presentation. This particular one, featuring the Ted Robinson Band was truly distinctive for the world class talent of recording artist and songwriter Tad Robinson who is called “one of the leading voices of soul-blues music,” his musicianship and that of his seasoned band. Playing to a thoroughly engaged, packed house, Robinson who wields a mean harmonica, was joined by guitarist Paul Holdman, drummer Brian Yarde and Kevin Anker on Hammond organ and keys.

Performing a program that included a mix of blues standards and some of Robinson’s originals, the set list included “Welcome Home” by Kevin MecKendree. “Private Tonight” by Arthur Adams and “Rainy Night in Georgia, by Tony Joe White. Robinson’s original tunes included such titles as “Real Street,” “Coming Home,” “Keep Your Heart Open for Love, “Pockets Full of Nothing,” and “Deeper Than You Think.”  — all of which are influenced and informed by Robinson’s Chicago blues with its urban style roots.

Paul Holdman – Courtesy of Rich Vorhees. Used with permission.

Robinson, who is celebrated for his soulfulness and effortless delivery showed off a range and a vocal tone perfectly suited for the genre that was originated in by African Americans, that consists of mostly ballads with themes of sadness and melancholy. Ultimately, I found Robinson a worthy successor of legendary blues singers such as B.B.King, Ray Charles Etta James, Billie Holiday, Oties Redding, and Janis Joplin — all of whom are performers I admire.

Guitarist Holdman, founder of the Woomblies Rock Orchestra, a popular Indy band, is most well-known for his collaboration with singer-songwriter Jennie DeVoe and his genre-switching versatility. Turning in a virtuoso performance, he exhibited a laid-back manner, and possessed a stage presence reminiscent of greats such as Jim Hendrix. Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. A consummate artist, he played his guitar as if it was an extension of his body, and his music connected viscerally with me and the receptive audience. Not only a gifted guitarist. Holdman was also impressive for his sensual vocal rendition of “Rainy Night in Georgia,” which he sang in a soulful bass voice that was splendid in its resonance and striking for its interpretation of White’s classic.


Brian Yarde – Courtesy of Rich Vorhees. Used with permission.

Keyboard player Anker and drummer Yarde, also accomplished players, completed Robinson’s polished band, which was one of the tightest I have ever witnessed. Their performance was also notable for solos, extended by their generous leader, in which each band member displayed their individual talent and style. I especially enjoyed observing the communication and interaction that took place between them — all of which kept them all if the same groove.

At the conclusion of the set, which closed with Robinson’s “Changes,” I felt a deep feeling of satisfaction having not only been highly entertained but also impressed by the band’s disciplined technique and artistry, Robinson’s appealing compositions and his band’s skillful execution of the well-paced program. The entire evening was much more than I expected and the memory of which, I still savor.

For tickets and information about upcoming Jazz Kitchen shows visit thejazzkitchen.com



photo: Josh Humble

About Tom

Journalist, producer, director, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, arts administrator, TV contributor, actor, model, writer and lyricist, Tom Alvarez has had an extensive career in media and the fine arts and continues to be an enthusiastic and devoted fan of both. His passion and unique background grant him insight, access and perspective to cover, promote and review the arts in Indianapolis, Central Indiana and beyond. Follow him on social media @tomalvarezartswriter and @tomalvarez1.

Alvarez has been writing about theatre, dance, music, cinema and visual arts for 40 years. His work has appeared in the Indianapolis Star, NUVO, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana, Unite Magazine, Dance Magazine, NOTE Magazine, and Examiner.com, among many other print and online platforms. A former contributor to Across Indiana on WFYI-TV, he currently has a regular performing arts segment on WISH-TV’s Life. Style. Live!

A principal of Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC, Alvarez co-created “Calder, The Musical” and is the managing director of Magic Thread Cabaret. As an actor-model, he has appeared in numerous TV and print ads and is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

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