3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Stop if you’ve heard this before.
Some refugees from bands join together to form an ad hoc “super group” that sounds pretty much like the outfits they came from.
OK, so WRD’s model is as clichéd as their moniker, which is unimaginatively comprised of the first letters of the last names from the three members; Robert Walter (The Greyboy Allstars), Eddie Roberts (New Mastersounds), and Adam Deitch (Lettuce). Regardless, the music is what matters and with this trinity of veteran jazz/funkers, there are no missteps.
These eleven instrumentals were captured in two pre-pandemic sessions; four in 2018 with seven more a year later. The recordings were quick and dirty, most nailed in a single take with none of the musicians wearing headphones and zero overdubs. They were aiming for energy over perfection in the performances but with artists this seasoned, you get both. The format is classic organ trio with keyboardist Walter also handling the bass parts, Roberts slinging his tough, tight jazz oriented guitar lines, and Deitch holding down a crisp, crackling back beat driving the attack.
The opening “Judy” quickly sets the tone as the collective locks into a short, sharp Meters-styled riff before branching out into solos from Walter and Roberts. WRD’s approach is clearly jam friendly yet songs are kept concise at around four minutes and solos never overstay their welcome. The vibe remains on high velocity for the majority of the 45 minute playing time. Ballads are off limits and there are only a few instances where the guys slow down to catch their breath such as on the appropriately, and humorously, titled closer “Pump Up the Valium.”
This frisky fusion aims to be as appropriate for the dance floor as it is on headphones alone in your living room where you can focus on how the solos are constructed. There are a few variations though; Roberts works a ’70’s, Shaft-styled wah-wah pedal for “Corner Pocket” and the threesome brings in tenor saxist Nick Gerlach for a few tracks such as the slinky “Hot Honey” that sounds like The Crusaders at their peak.
Nothing is overdone. The pieces are animated yet classy and don’t devolve into aimless noodling, a common trap for this genre. The players respect each other’s talents so no one steals the spotlight, at least not for long.
If it wasn’t for the fact that each already has his own full time gig, this might be a project with legs. We’ll see if WRD Volume 2 ever appears, but even if not, this splendid, groove heavy music shows that even unoriginal concepts can soar when the participants are this talented.