The Greyboy Allstars honor their heroes on new album
The Greyboy Allstars - Karl Denson (saxophone and flute), Elgin Park (guitar), Robert Walter (keys), Chris Stillwell (bass) and Aaron Redfield (drums) - released a new album April 1. "Get a Job" compiles the California quintet's four-part pandemic-era live-stream series and captures the unique energy of one of the great live bands in modern jazz.
The so-called "Soul Dream" performances finally document ten never-before-released cover songs they've played over their nearly three decades together.
Acknowledging the history of jazz versions of pop songs, the Greyboy Allstars light up the Beatles' classic "Taxman" and the Burt Bacharach hit "Walk On By" with grooving, up-tempo takes that will have you dancing. Music fans of a certain age will also note the latter song's clever "Mary Tyler Moore Show" ending.
A few tracks from the rich soul jazz tradition really shine on "Get a Job." The Gary Bartz spiritual jazz favorite, "I've Known Rivers" finds Denson in fine vocal form and taking a lean, searching saxophone solo. Saxophone great Gene Ammons' funky "Jug Eyes" is firmly in the soulful Greyboy Allstars style with Walter dazzling on acoustic piano.
Another funky moment comes courtesy of saxophone legend Sonny Stitt. The Greyboy Allstars' version of "Turn It On" grinds along at a slower pace, as simmering organ, guitar and saxophone solos fly above the rock-solid rhythm section of Stillwell and Redfield.
The crowd-pleasing early '70s soul funk scorcher "Got to Get Me a Job" by Ann Alford, and the jazzy proto-hip hop of Gil Scott-Heron's "Lady Day and John Coltrane" are both great features for the multi-talented Denson, but also show the band's loose-but-tight unity developed since their founding.
Making the most of lockdown conditions, these usually busy musicians found communion in the studio with each other and (via the internet) their fans. Park says, "the more we play together, the more I enjoy listening to the other guys. It seems like a simple idea but finding a place in the mix is what's important, not the solo. (The idea is to) weave a thread inside the fabric."
"Get a Job" follows previous album "Como De Allstars" by just 20 months. That's one lucky side-effect of the Covid-19 catastrophe. For Greyboy Allstars fans, another is the band's current tour.
Unfortunately, Seattle is not on the itinerary at this time. However, Robert Walter will be in Seattle for another all-star meeting on stage May 13 at Nectar Lounge in Fremont. He'll be joined by drummer Stanton Moore and Seattle stars Skerik and Andy Coe on saxophone and guitar, with Seattle's McTuff opening the show.
Listen for the new Greyboy Allstars album on "The New Cool" Friday night, connect for studio sessions from all these musicians anytime and find more exclusive content on our YouTube channel.
"The New Cool" airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.