The Sirens Records

SR5019: This Is My Story, This Is My Song   -- Eddie Robinson

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It’s a joyous occasion: Pianist Eddie Robinson gets his feature album in a distinguished gospel career dating to the early 1950’s. An able musician in his elder years, the Chicagoan is steadfast in his belief in the redemptive power of faith. So are, no question, vocalists Milas Armour III, Uletta Jackson and Phinus Alexander Jr., each an individualist in tone and delivery. Organ and drums add to the spiritual glow.

Frank-John Hadley, Downbeat, February 2012

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Press / Music CD Reviews

Eddie Robinson isn't a household name in gospel music, but he should be.

For decades, his keyboard work has supported a chapel full of Chicago gospel singers, most notably the first Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson. He traveled the world with Jackson as her accompanist and member of the singer's trusted inner circle.

But Robinson never commandeered his own project until now. Thanks to Steven Dolins and The Sirens Records, This is My Story, This is My Song gives Eddie Robinson his propers and a chance for him to demonstrate to fans old and new that after all these years, he still has the touch.

That touch is the finesse an accompanist must have to support a gospel singer, whose timing and tempo are more often governed by the spirit than the metronome. But that's the way it is: gospel, after all, is an improvisational style. Since rarely are two performances alike, an unwitting accompanist can end up with fits of musical clumsiness trying to follow the chart. To support a gospel singer with effortless grace and musicality is both gift and craft. Eddie Robinson has a lifetime's worth of both.

Robinson chose his own group of singers and musicians to assist him on his album. Like a sacred Count Basie, he is content to play piano with verve while others sing. One of his vocalists, Ms. Uletta Jackson, has old-school provenance, having worked with Isabel Joseph Johnson during the days of her television program, Rock of Ages. Especially impressive are the vocal talents of Milas Armour III and Phinus Alexander, Jr. Both men possess expressive and robust voices, giving forth the kind of power that Jimmy Rushing brought to jazz. Alexander takes the simple hymn, "Jesus Loves Me," and rounds it out with a Pentecostal "Yes Lord" chant. Armour renders "His Eye is on the Sparrow" with a voice that reaches the back row. Robinson is the constant, the musical resin that blends the pieces into a song performance.

This is My Story, This is My Song is also billed as a tribute to Mahalia Jackson on her forthcoming Centennial and to the Gay Family, for whom both Robinson and Dolins have special affection. Songs such as "Elijah Rock" and "When the Saints Go Marching In" pay tribute, respectively. The production quality of The Sirens releases is always top-notch and this release is no different: the players sound like they are in your living room.

Eddie Robinson and his combo on This is My Story, This is My Song take us back to church for real, with toe-tapping Zion songs that evoke church mothers in their finery, hats perched high on their 'dos, fans waving in time to the music, shouting their troubles over on a Sunday morning.

Picks: "Down by the Riverside", "Jesus Loves Me", "I Won't Complain".

Bob Marovich, The Black Gospel Blog, August 19th, 2011
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The Sirens continues its exploration and documentation of gospel piano playing with a set from Eddie Robinson, born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1933 and Mahalia Jackson’s former accompanist on stage and record – and this album coincides with the 100th anniversary of Mahalia’s birth. This is Eddie’s first set as a gospel music leader, despite his more than sixty years of experience.

A lively release it is too, with mid- and up- temp, mainly traditional, numbers predominating, and Eddie’s often bluesy piano (try “Until Then” or “I’ve Got a Feeling”) well backed by organ from either Cliff Dubose or Aaron Cockerham, who both learned from their parents, and regular gospel drummer Ron Robertson. Vocalists Milas J. Armour III, baritone (five tracks), a slightly more formal Uletta Jackson (four tracks) and Phinus Joel Alexander Jr. (four) are all confident and controlled – even an old chestnut like “Down By The Riverside” is given renewed interest. “Blessed Assurance” swings along mightily (as do several others), Milas’s singing on “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” is the real vocal tour-de-force of the CD, and even “The Saints…” rocks along, building up a mighty head of steam. “Elijah Rock” has a Latin-tinged arrangement, and at times reminded me of Ray Charles (though I guess it really should be the other way round – a very impressive vocal from Milas again). “How I Got Over” is given a fine, jaunty instrumental treatment, and the closer is a recitation by Eddie himself (over organ backing) recalling his time with Mahalia.

Once again The Sirens has come up with a fine release documenting an often overlooked aspect of gospel music. Certainly one to investigate if you are at all interested in the history of gospel music.

Norman Darwen, Blues & Rhythm, October 2011
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Eddie Robinson, along with Mildred Falls, Gwendolyn Lightner, Kenneth Morris, Herbert “PeeWee” Pickard, and sisters Evelyn and Geraldine Gay, is one of the under-sung giants of African American gospel music’s so-called Golden Age. Keyboardists all, they primarily played in the background, behind vocalists who received the bulk of fan adulation. Robinson, who was born in Birmingham in 1933 and relocated to Chicago 16 years later, made his earliest recordings with Robert Anderson, the Caravans, and the Soul Stirrers. It was during his 1958-71 tenure with gospel queen Mahalia Jackson – first as her organist and, after Falls’ departure, her pianist—that his keyboard artistry reached the ears of audiences around the world.

Today, at age 78, Robinson plays piano in Chicago at Leak and Sons Funeral Home, for the St. Andrew Temple Choir, and on the long-running gospel television show Singsation!. On the first-ever recording to appear under his name, his chiming, triplet-filled piano solos are alternately riveting and elegant and his bouncing accompaniments are in the tradition pioneered by Morris. …

Lee Hildebrand, Living Blues, December 2011
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