Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.
Last month saw the release of Get Thy Bearings, Robert Walter’s fourth record with the 20th Congress, and the groups first record together in a decade. A soul jazz vet, founding member of the Greyboy Allstarsand Hammond B3 wunderkind, Walter has gigged with everyone from Gary Bartz, Fred Wesley and Andy Bey, to contemporaries Skerik, and Stanton Moore. I’ve personally seen Walter in action, in one form or another, twenty some odd times. His versatility never disappoints, as reflected in this week’s installment ofThe Lagniappe Sessions. Walter, in his own words, below.
‘The Hidden Track’ reviews ‘Get Thy Bearings’
Robert Walter didn’t exactly fade into the background, but one reason it’s been a top-marks year for him so far is that one of Walter’s most beloved bands, the 20th Congress, is finally back in action. It just dropped a new album, Get Thy Bearings, on the Royal Potato Family Records label, and a bunch of live dates are already booked, with many more to come.
[All Photos by Mike Sherry]
To Walter, it was just plain time to get the textured funk and groove of the 20th Congress back from recess. He’s been plenty busy – the legendary Greyboy Allstars, of which he was a co-founder, have been steadily semi-regular since their 2006 reboot, for example. But it became clear during a recent interview with Hidden Track that for Walter, the 20th Congress is still what keeps his creative juices flowing like no other outfit.
Now in his mid-40s, Walter’s no longer a young upstart – he’s the seasoned, heavy-yet-nimble, richly nuanced player his early years with the Greyboys always promised he’d be. Having moved back to California (L.A. specifically) in the last few years after half a decade in New Orleans, he spends time with the reunited Greyboys, and plenty of time with Mike Andrews, aka Elgin Park, scoring movies. But national audiences will see a lot more of him this year.
Get Thy Bearings is a hot album. Walter’s many influences and projects give him a wider palette to paint with in the context of the 20th Congress, so it’s not surprising he’s able to successfully pull in everything from acid jazz to gospel and horned-up boogaloo to freaked-out Hendrix (“Up from the Skies”) and the title track, a reworking of a Donovan song that’s both groovy and paranoid-spooky.
Here’s what Walter had to tell us.
HIDDEN TRACK: I want to get into the 20th Congress but you’ve been out a bunch with the Greyboy Allstars so let’s start there. I remember talking to you and to Karl around the time the Greyboys were rebooted years ago and it just seemed like you guys were going to do it when it felt right – not make a full-time priority, but also make sure it’s kept alive. Still the case?
ROBERT WALTER: Yeah, I feel like that’s always been at least sort of the philosophical home base for me. I don’t know if I could speak for everyone, but the Greyboy Allstars is sort of my garage band that I grew up playing with in a way, you know? It was the first band I went on the road with and it was the band that got me playing the kind of music I’ve been focusing on since then. It’s the fundamental band.
But as it went on, we all got interested in different things. So the good thing about that group is that we’ve never done it when we didn’t all want to do it. For the first five years of it, we hit the road really hard, most of that time in a van, and that’s what bonded us. But by the end of those [early] years, it became a chore. But since we got it going again, we’ve always come together because we feel inspired to do it. It’s always a pretty positive thing to play with those guys again, and part of it is that we feed it with different stuff. Everyone’s got new ideas and new stories to tell.
HT: Do you think the chemistry of the band is much changed by all the stuff you guys have individually worked on in the years between the original Greyboy Allstars come up and these on-again, off-again reunions?
RW: Everyone enjoys it a lot still, I can say that. Everyone has things they can express within that band that they really can’t express anywhere else. I’m not going to say it’s easy because between us we do have a lot of big egos and it’s a lot of people with a lot different ideas. You definitely have to fight to get your point of view heard. But everyone is a great musician. If you don’t have an idea, someone will kick you back in gear. Someone always has some good idea on how to fix a bridge or move a song forward or something.
HT: So that core chemistry is still there.
RW: What I find interesting, yeah, is that it hasn’t changed much at all. The concept of that group is so well defined, in a way. We came together around the kind of records we liked – organ records, jazz, groove, James Brown, various funk 45’s. That’s still the core of what we do. And when we’re doing songs we learned 20 years ago and have been playing for 20 years or more, everyone’s just a little better at their instruments now. You look across the stage and it feels very comfortable.
HT: Rather than regular tours with the Greyboys it seems like you guys have gotten a lot more out of multi-night stands in places and spot appearances. Two of your recent New York runs, Brooklyn Bowl last year and the Blue Note a few weeks ago, were very well received, no?
RW: It’s always nice to soak up a city, and depending on where you play, you play a little differently. Way back when, every Wednesday night we used to play at this place the Green Circle Bar in San Diego. That was our regular thing even when we were about to go on a tour. You could wander in, maybe you have dinner with the guys and then go to the gig. It makes it feel less like a big concert and more casual – more that you’re just up there playing for people.
HT: The guests you had at the Blue Note – Houston Person, James Carter, Gary Bartz – seemed to add a lot to those shows.
RW: You know, Fred Wesley was on our first album and he came out with us, and we used to play with Melvin Sparks a lot and have had a lot of people we admire as guests. It kicks the band into our best behavior, I think. It’s not only people we want to impress, but you learn a lot with first-hand contact with those kinds of players. We explore different genres on the records but every time you go check back in with the real innovators of a certain style, it’s an education. We felt invigorated.
HT: How did you select Houston, James and Gary for this run?
RW: We knocked around a bunch of ideas. There were people we had asked but couldn’t get, though Gary Bartz was always in the mix. James Carter is someone who was on our radar in the ’90s, we were always playing the same circuits, especially in Europe. And Houston Person I’m not sure how we managed to pull him off but it was great.
HT: Let’s talk a little about the 20th Congress. It seems like in the last few years you weren’t so much committing yourself to one project or another. I’ve heard a few folks describe you as being a little bit off the radar, at least compared to some of the touring years earlier in your career. Accurate you think?
RW: Yeah. I started a family. I moved a couple of times. It was general life stuff that made it difficult for me to go on extended tours or do extended runs of stuff under my own name. I was in New Orleans for a while and played with a lot of people from there; I saw that as sort of my New Orleans jazz school experience. I loved that my whole life, so I wanted to experience that with the people who do that for a living. But I moved back to California and the more straight-up jazz funk that I had been playing with [the 20th Congress], it seemed to make sense again to do that kind of stuff.
HT: Do we hear the New Orleans stuff in the new 20th Congress material? It doesn’t sound like you went completely back to what we heard from you in this band before.
RW: It’s true, I think the lines are all getting pretty blurred now. Playing with people like Johnny Vidacovitch will do that to you. I’m definitely not a young man anymore, so hopefully at some point, all of these things that started as imitations – you know, you admire music and you learn how to play it and what makes sense to do – hopefully, they become part of you. So now, what I do is a little bit less defined. I will continue to work with New Orleans musicians. Simon Lott, who’s in the touring 20th Congress lineup, is..well, technically from Baton Rouge but he’s a New Orleans musician and has so much of that influence. We still cover a lot of stuff like from Smokey Johnson and the Meters. It all goes together at some point.
HT: How long were you in New Orleans full time?
RW: About five years.
HT: And what prompted your return to California?
RW: To be closer to my family, and plus my wife at the time got a job out there. I wanted to work closely with Mike Andrews, too, he works on a lot of films and composing for films and that’s stuff I’m interested in so I came to work with him. New Orleans, to be truthful a lot of my allegiances and best friends are still in that town. I imagine I’ll end up there again. But when you get into things like living space and paying for private school, all of that becomes an issue.
HT: You did do a lot of recording while there and focused on projects like Super Heavy Organ. What spurred you to reboot the 20th Congress instead of continue as more of a solo artist?
RW: I had tunes I wanted to record and they didn’t quite fit with my solo stuff. The new stuff was more funk, and it just felt appropriate. I was listening and I was like, I want Cheme [Gastelum] playing on this. I want the 20th Congress. I wish I had a more poetic answer for you but it just seemed to make sense as time to do it again.
HT: Do you think the core sound of the 20th Congress has changed much?
RW: It broadened a little The band has changed throughout the years, with different phases and members. But I think between the stuff we did on the Money Shot record (2000) and when Joe Russo was in the band was probably a bigger leap. At points it’s become more psychedelic, or more electric Miles Davis, and at some points it’s really more R&B and soul. It’s a whole bag of music.
HT: You’ve got tour dates on the calendar but they’re pretty focused out West for now. Will you be bringing 20th Congress across the country?
RW: I don’t want to do 200 dates in a van, but we will get to all the places we need to get to within the next year. We’re doing Colorado and the West Coast tour, we’re doing Bear Creek so we’ll probably put together a little run in the South around that, and we’d talked about doing East Coast maybe in the fall or maybe in the new year, and then there are festivals and stuff. We’ll get there. I’m still doing other things but I’ve sort of pared down a lot of my sideman jobs. This year has been about the 20th Congress.
Robert Walter’s 20th Congress digs into summer touring on August 3rd in Jackson, WY and winds their way through Vail, Boulder, Los Angeles, San Francisco and more as they make their way to the tour closer in Seattle on September 14. Get the dates and details here, and then plan to join them as they tear it up in a city near you.
Robert Walter by Chad Smith
If ever a musician could be said to make love to their instrument it’sRobert Walter. Put him behind a Hammond B-3 and you’ll see the whole ritual of confident, smiling seduction to lusty, handsy foreplay to contorted, orgasmic culmination play across Walter’s face and lively frame. Put another way, the man puts his back into in ways you can see and feel. He’s nearly as animated at the piano but there’s something about the swell ‘n’ swing of the B-3 that seizes Walter in a really appealing manner. But, while he’s swivel hipping and tossing his head back, he’s also a man in command, quite simply one of the most razor sharp, expertly instinctive players the Impound has ever had the pleasure of witnessing work. He possesses an intelligence and perceptive knack for finding just what each piece in a crazy variety of settings requires, and then delivering that thing right on time with bravura attack and dexterous grace. If feel is what you want then Robert Walter has it in spades.
However, for all his flair, heft and juicy chops, Walter is an increasingly potent composer, able to get the job done in a focused, satisfying manner that’s lean on leggy solos and strong on compelling melodic turns and instrumental interplay. To wit, the new joint from Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, Get Thy Bearings(released June 25 on The Royal Potato Family label and available HERE), where his tunes hold their own against classic 60s soul jazz, primo soundtrack work, and more basically, the most readily enjoyable instrumental music out there – a song cycle filled with pep and ear-snagging goodness. While some pieces call back to bouncing gems like the Sanford and Sontheme “The Streetbeater,” elsewhere, notably on the title track (an instrumental take on a Donovan number which frankly betters the original) and “Inversion Layer,” Walter reveals a pleasing melancholy streak, a bittersweet grooviness that’s positively wistful. The musicianship throughout is top flight, and Walter dovetails perfectly with Elgin Park (guitar, bass), Aaron Redfield (drums), Cochemea Gastelum (saxophones), Chuck Prada (percussion) and guest Karl Denson (sax on “Hunk,” flute on “Don’t Chin The Dog”). Get Thy Bearings is just plain cool, a long player that continues the traditions of Jimmy Smith, Henry Mancini and other class acts by both honoring and extending the bright threads in their landmark work.
Here’s what Robert had to the Impound’s keyboardist inquiry.
- Favorite keyboard? Why?
- I started on piano, so that was my favorite for many years, and where I have written a lot of my music. Lately though the Hammond organ has taken over as the place I feel the most at home. I love the variety of sounds and the feel of it. Just the motor warming up makes me inspired. They are handmade, irritable and giant.
- Tastiest keyboardist – i.e. not just soloing but also overall playing – currently working?
- Herbie Hancock is my all-time favorite. His body of work is vast and varied, and everything is played with an ease that makes you feel like there is even more lurking beneath the surface. I especially like the early 70s stuff – Crossings, Sextant – before he fully embraced funk music. I ripped off my delay note bending thing on the Rhodes from him. He’s made some music in recent years that I’m not that into, but whenever you see him play there is a lot to learn from.
- A keyboard solo I never get tired of listening to is…
- ”Actual Proof” by Herbie Hancock (Thrust) – Fender Rhodes
“On The Sunny Side of the Street” by James Booker (New Orleans Piano Wizard Live) – piano
“Greensleeves” by Jimmy Smith (Organ Grinder Swing) – B3
- Preferred brand of keys? Why?
- As discussed earlier, Hammond B3, and in general all the old electric keyboards – Wurlitzers, Clavinets, Fender Rhodes. I like to mess around with synthesizers but find them limited as far as the music I’m trying to make.
- Thelonius Monk, Bernie Worrell or Nicky Hopkins– which one gives you the biggest keyboard boner? What makes them SO sweet?
- It’s a tie between Monk and Bernie. I actually find them similar but from different eras. Both are totally unique and instantly recognizable, and they both groove hard, but in an interesting way. Each of them avoided clichés to the point where they’ve invented their own.
- One lesser known keyboardist folks should check out is…
- Bobby Watley from Funk Inc. is great. Also Big John Patton is a big influence on me. Larry Young, Shirley Scott, Gene Harris, Archibald, Bill Doggett…there’s a million.
- What aspect of being a keyboardist always makes you happy?
- I enjoy being able to play multiple parts of the music at the same time. It’s like having a whole band at your fingertips. Great for composing. Also no broken strings.
A great interview with Robert Walter from Glide Magazine. ‘VINTAGE SOUL FOR MODERN TIMES’
Keyboardist/composer Robert Walter is nothing if not modest in talking about his playing, composing, performing and recording. On his own with The 20thCongress, as a founding member of contemporary funkmeisters The Greyboy Allstars, as accompanist to the likes of drummer Stanton Moore and guitarist Will Bernard or as a collaborator on music for film, his confidence is as palpable as his sense of self, no matter the. Not surprisingly, those virtues are just as clear in this conversation with Doug Collette.
Walter’s original material is similar to his style of playing: the melodic and rhythmic motifs within compositions grow on a listener slowly and imperceptibly. Unique as is his willingness to accommodate the needs of other musicians, Robert relishes leadership as much as those of collaboration: he addresses the challenges of any musical landscape directly and authoritatively, but with an open-mindedness that allows ideas to flourish as they coalesce.
Busy as he may be juggling diverse roles in various projects, Robert Walter’s conversation nevertheless displays the same relaxed yet purposeful air of his musicianship. He has the rare gift of making a point clearly, sans the verbosity, emotionalism or cliché that can adversely affect any kind of dialogue—exactly the same way he creates music. With two recent releases (Get Thy Bearings) with his own band Robert Walter’s 20th Congress and another one (Inland Emperor) with the jazz/funk outfit The Greyboy Allstars, along with a tour kicking off this week in Frisco, CO, Robert Walter is proving 2013 to be as fruitful a year as ever in his accomplished musical career.
Comparing The Greyboy Allstars tour schedule with that of The 20th Congress, it doesn’t look like you’re going to have many days off anytime soon…
No, we’re working pretty hard–at least for these days. It’s not like before, when we used to tour all the time, but we’ve lightened it up as we’ve gotten older and gotten families and stuff. We are on a push right now though…
It must be great to have this stuff come together all at once? Did you plan ahead to do the new Greyboy Allstars album (Inland Emperor) or did you just get hit with a lightning bolt of inspiration and say “Let’s do The 20th Congress again!”
It all kind of happened at the same time. I actually started recording my album before we started The Greyboys’, perhaps a little before we got serious about doing the sessions. Part of that approach was a way to work out the kinks in the studio: it was mostly the same setup and we had some time to do it, I had the tunes and we just started working on them. It wasn’t necessarily intended to be a 20th Congress record, but the nature of the tunes I had fit that band.
I hear more detail in the record (Get Thy Bearings) as the more I listen to it. Did you guys put much preparation into the arrangement and structure of the tunes before you started to record?
Most of the material I brought in, I had made demos of at home where I’m playing all the instruments, but some of them were just written on the piano. Then, others I just taught to the band right there. But we’ve all been working together for so long, we have a kind of shorthand that makes it pretty easy for us to come up with ideas: “Why don’t we repeat this part” or “Why don’t we go back to this?”–it goes pretty quick. So I’d come in in the morning, I’d teach them a tune and we’d arrange it, then record it: we’d do two or three tunes in a day.
That’s pretty productive! But you must have a lot of confidence in yourself and the people you’re playing with not to second guess it too much and be tempted to go over a tune too much or go back over a tune too often.
It’s more difficult with people you’ve just met, but we all have these favorite records of ours, so we’ll say, “Why don’t we do this kind of a thing??” It’s a collective thought process.
Is that how the Jimi Hendrix tune (“Up From the Skies”) ended up on Get Thy Bearings?
Yeah, that was Elgin Park’s idea. That tune had always been a classic on long drives on the road with Axis: Bold As Love. We wanted to do a Hendrix tune, but not an obvious one, and the idea was to do it in a style of somewhere between Miles Davis electric and Grant Green (famed jazz guitarist) Live at the Lighthouse, a combination of eclectic influences. And we just did it in one take as we half-knew the tune and played it.
There’s probably something to be said for that as you don’t play and then worry about it sounding ‘right.’ It works as a great conclusion to the album as it’s so different from everything else that just came before it.
Right! And it is an example of the group improvisation thing as we’re all thinking on the spot and responding, so it’s got a little more of that jazz kind of playing.
I’m interested to know, in terms of the production of the album, how you came about the sequence of tunes? You didn’t happen to record these tracks in the same order as they appear on the album did you?
No, not at all. But I did have a sequence in mind from pretty early on, not before we tracked, but as I listened to rough mixes. I made a CD for the car and I have an hour commute into Los Angeles when I’m working on film music with Mike Andrews, so I have a lot of time to listen. And I tried to sequence it a couple different ways, but with the first sequence of rough mixes, I got hooked on it.
Speaking of Miles, he often spoke of having space in music, and certainly this album allows room for the music to breathe naturally as it was played.
I don’t like it if it’s too self-consciously trying to ‘be’ anything. Somewhere along the line, even with records I listen to, I think of it as documentary style record making. It’s not some master plan: I want to capture the moment and people’s personalities and not over-fix everything. I like when there are little mistakes and little details: that’s good for repeated listening to me.
It makes the music true to life. And over-thinking really tends to kill music like this, which is so reliant on a bounce in a rhythm: when bands think about it too much or try too hard, the music flattens out and never goes anywhere.
Yeah, you can edit it down to the most by the minute detail and people tend to over-consider the music.
That’s a great temptation these days because it looks so easy—and in a way it probably is—but then it robs the music of its soul. You made an interesting comment a minute ago as you mentioned listening while you are driving and listening on the road; what kind of music do you pick listen to when you just want to sit down and enjoy hearing music for its own sake?
Well, I go through all kinds of phases, depending on what I’m into. My latest go-to music, over the last couple years, has been soul music with vocals, usually from the Sixties and Seventies. I was really into instrumental music for years and listened to a lot of jazz, but somewhere along the line I became drawn to vocalists. And I like those older records because they have mistakes and feel off-the-cuff a little bit. But then too I like the stories that they tell and I’m fascinated by all these voices. So you’ll never do me wrong if you put on one of those records (laughs). I do stretch into all kinds of things though as I like electronic music and classical.
It’s interesting you say that about going in different directions as I’ve found myself doing that over the last couple of years, usually based on a show I’ve just seen: I will listen to that artist only or related artists for upwards of a month or more. Taj Mahal is a good example…
The Natch’l Blues album is a great record. My parents had that album and actually gave it to me. It has all that we’ve been talking about.
I wanted to ask a little about how you work when you’re writing film music, but also comment on gigs I’ve seen you do acting as sideman to artists like guitarist Will Bernard and drummer Stanton Moore. You seem to have a natural ability to fit right in that’s equal to your penchant for leading a band.
I don’t think I’d be happy leading my band all the time any more than I would by being a sideman all the time. And this leads into talking about film music. I like to look at a body of work or a song, and figure out how I can make that thing better without insinuating too many of my own ideas. Not that I don’t use my own ideas, but I don’t want to make the thing in my own image, I want to try to elevate the artist’s perspective, I try to see where people are coming from.
Like in Stanton’s group, I write a lot of the music, but I write specifically for him to play. So it’s not something I would necessarily play on my own, but it’s stuff that I imagine “What would Stanton want to play over and sound good on?” It’s serving his style, so to speak.
I’ve heard about various methods of composing for film: watching rushes from the film, reading the story…how do you most often compose original music for a movie or a television program?
Just to be clear, most of the work I do for film is with Mike Andrews—who is also Elgin Park, guitar player for The Greyboy Allstars. We had worked on a film as a group years ago and when the band started to dissolve, as we did our solo things like mine and Karl Denson’s; Mike, instead of doing that, continued on getting film work. He worked a bunch of small things first and then kept his career going: he’s quite an accomplished film composer and has done a lot of films (Donnie Darko,Orange County andWalk Harder: The Dewey Cox Story). So most of the time I am working for and with him: we go into the studio and hang out, as we usually get involved with film while they’re editing it. Sometimes the film itself is cut to fit the music and sometimes our music is cut. I see my role as a sideman really, as I see what Mike’s ideas are and I try to encourage him if it sounds good to me or move it in another direction if he’s barking up the wrong tree…just try and help him with what he’s doing. He’s brilliant really, because he has a way of looking at film and usually knowing, spot-on, what it needs.
That must be fascinating: to play the dual roles of participant and observer…
Yeah, sometimes things will come out of little jams we’ll play together, but when it comes to actual composition, most of it’s him.
I can’t help but ask how you picked the name ‘20th Congress’ for your band?
Mainly I just liked the way it sounded. But as I understand it, there was a special session of the Soviet congress that was a turning point in the Russian communist party, so the joke was when the Greyboy Allstars went on their first hiatus, this project was my effort to get out from under a totalitarian regime (laughs).
As I said though, I like the name because I didn’t want anything like ‘soul’ or ‘groove’ in the name, so I could leave it open to interpretation.
The name does have a rhythm and a melody to it all at once.
My only regret is that people always get my name wrong as ‘Walters’ instead of ‘Walter’ and I put an apostrophe in the name—which only makes it more confusing.
(laughs) Well, you are making a name for yourself, slowly but surely.
Robert Walter’s 20th Congress kicks off its tour this week- visit here for tour dates and more details
Another incredible review of Robert Walter’s 20th Congress album ‘Get Thy Bearings’ from Relix.
Robert Walter’s 20th Congress: Get Thy Bearings
Royal Potato Family
Robert Walter’s 20th Congress have reconvened after a decade out of the studio to bring us Get Thy Bearings—a supremely delicious record for those who like their funk served with a little jazz on the side. Walter’s SoCal roots collide with his New Orleans sensibilities throughout the record, as laid-back rhythms meander into grooves that make you want to jump up and dance. Highlights include the infectious organ riffs of album opener “Hunk,” Karl Denson’s slick-as-ice flute work on “Don’t Chin the Dog,” and Walter’s unique takes on Donovan’s “Get Thy Bearings” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Up From the Skies.” It’s a record that oozes confidence—an album that knows exactly what it wants to be.
‘The Horn’ reviews ‘Get Thy Bearings’
Robert Walter’s 20th Congress
Get Thy Bearings
The Royal Potato Family
On his 8th studio album with backing band The 20th Congress, Robert Walter does not fail to bring his signature funk. Get Thy Bearings is a vintage-y sounding stroll through the talented Walter’s Technicolor, jazzy brain. Everything down to the fantastic photograph on the album cover is totally unique, and that is something to appreciate. “Hunk” is a shrill but intensely fun organ number, and the sax solo on “Little Business” practically leaves its own funky trail of fairy dust behind. Title track “Get Thy Bearings,” with its under-a-streetlamp saxophone and ominous keys, is among the darker songs on the record, which also include the psychedelic and spacy “Up From the Skies” and the melancholy and mysterious “Inversion Layer.” “Foxhunting” is a bat outta hell dance number and “Dog Party” is exactly what the soundtrack would be at a groovy party thrown by Charlie Brown and the gang from Sesame Street…and yes, that is a compliment.
CHICO NEWS & REVIEW
Get Thy Bearings
I don’t know who first put the “fun” in “funk,” but for the last 20 years that Robert Walter has been seated at his Hammond B3 organ, he hasn’t let any grass grow under his B3’s pedals. A founding member of The Greyboy Allstars, Walter has released a handful of albums during the past decade that feature him in various settings, as well as with the 20th Congress, and he employs his full keyboard arsenal here—B3, piano, electric piano and synthesizer—on what’s described as his “funkiest material since [the group’s inception] in 1999.” The disc gets off to a great and greasy funky start with “Hunk,” a sassy strutting tune that features a smooth tenor sax solo by Karl Denson, a co-founder of The Greyboy Allstars. Denson also shows his impressive flute chops on the sensual “Don’t Chin the Dog,” a tricky number with Elgin Park’s hypnotically repetitious bass line nicely fueled by Aaron Redfield’s drums and Chuck Prada’s percussion. The rhythm section get full marks for its tasty work on every one of the CD’s nine tunes—especially Redfield! Although the accent is on the funk, their ghostly version of Hendrix’s “Up from the Skies” (which also includes tenorman Cochemea Gastelum) shows another side of the group.
LOUISVILLE ECCENTRIC OBSERVER
Get Thy Bearings
Robert Walter has reconvened the 20th Congress, with Cochemea Gastelum and Karl Denson on saxes, Elgin Park on guitar, and others. The title track is Donovan’s jazzy piece, a showstopper in early King Crimson concerts, with the band splitting the difference in the two versions. The only other cover is “Up from the Skies,” with RW20C re-imagining Jimi Hendrix’s spacey swing tune as spacey funk. The other songs are originals, mining soul and gospel influences, starting with “Hunk,” followed by the New Orleans R&B of “Little Business,” reflecting Walter’s years in the Crescent City. “Dog Party” conjures up Leon Russell’s early sanctified sound, and “Crux” lacks only a vocal amen corner. “Don’t Chin the Dog” features Denson’s lilting flute. The nine songs in 39 minutes feel like sketches waiting to be filled out with live jamming, a mainstay of the early RW20C.