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The New Cool: W.R.D. emerges as a new supergroup of retro-modern groove

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Photo by Abe Beeson, album design by Mike Tallman
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Spring colors in nature and on the wax - new vinyl from Walter/Roberts/Deitch.

The new trio W.R.D. is keyboardist Robert Walter, guitarist Eddie Roberts and drummer Adam Deitch. Their debut album, The Hit, on Roberts' Color Red Records was released last week, and you'll hear their gritty, greasy, pulpy grooves this Friday night on the KNKX modern jazz show The New Cool.

The trio's origins go to the heart of Roberts' ethos at Color Red, formed by the New Mastersounds guitarist when he moved to Denver, Colo., in 2015, as an effort to document that city's musical collaborations. His Color Red Studios have also become a place where visiting musicians can team up with Denver players and whomever else might be swinging through the Mile High City.

It was just such a meeting in 2018 that the W.R.D. trio recorded their first four songs for The Hit, with another one-day session in 2019 resulting in seven more. Just two days of work is, as Code Red's publicity team puts it, "the insignia of excellent chemistry."

Roberts jokes, "We're three Tauruses. ... We're all bandleaders, we've all got similar characters. We knew there'd be no getting 'dragged along.' We're three people pushing, which is really integral for an organ trio. There's no room for passengers."

With songs averaging a lean four minutes, the strengths of each player as a performer and composer are readily apparent. Adam Deitch, known for his funky grooves with the band Lettuce, is tight as a piccolo snare here. He wrote two of W.R.D.'s first songs, "Corner Pocket" and "Red Sunset," both with cinematic vibes that some clever music supervisor could put to good use in a retro heist movie.

Greyboy Allstars keysman and a popular bandleader in his own right, Robert Walter gets credit for six of the songs on The Hit. His "Poison Dart" is a bouncy funk shuffle with a melodic push and pull from minor to major chords that his fans will find familiar and fresh.

Eddie Roberts adds just a pair of co-writing credits with Walter, but they happen to be my favorites - so far. Lead track "Judy" lays out a punchy theme that had me thinking of Seattle's organ titan Joe Doria at his most catchy. Roberts' muscular guitar solo fuses Jimmy James-style attitude with the dexterity he's famous for with The New Mastersounds.

On the New Cool Friday night, you'll hear "Chum City," one of two songs augmented by Denver-based saxophonist Nick Gerlach. Roberts opens the track with wah-wah guitar, leading to the doubled melody line by Gerlach and Walter. Deitch directs the energy, pulling back and then pushing the energy into peaks and valleys of jazz funk.

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Credit Record image courtesy Color Red Records
Collectors may already have the WRD debut single, "Corner Pocket" b/w "Happy Hour" was released in 2018.

Walter takes the first solo, and gradually builds the energy from a stroll to a strut. Gerlach sounds inspired, blowing a brief but impassioned eight bars, then handing back to Walter for another solo before W.R.D. (plus one) returns to the head. A tasty Deitch drum break follows, and "Chum City" cruises back down the dock to settle in next to the crab pots and fishing boats.

The album's cover, featuring a sporty vintage sedan with driver and backseat passenger, brings to mind classic film score releases. The Hit within will satisfy devotees of groovy '60s- and '70s-era action movies, but with Robert Walter, Eddie Roberts and Adam Deitch, the talent of the players raises the stakes and the quality to another level.

If these three weren't so busy with their own projects, W.R.D. would be considered one of the hottest new groups in modern jazz. As it is, The Hit stand on its own as a highlight of 2021, and just maybe Walter, Roberts and Deitch will get it together one more time.

The New Cool airs Fridays from 9 to 11 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.

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