The Greyboy Allstars Return with More West Coast Boogaloo

The Greyboy Allstars | Como De Allstars | (Knowledge Room Recordings)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Welcome to the first new music in seven years from this funked up, jam happy supergroup of sorts… but that shouldn’t be surprising. After all, many of the members lead their own bands, and/or contribute to others.  In the case of reed player Karl Denson, his side project is touring as lead horn player with the Rolling Stones. He also fronts Tiny Universe..busy guy. Keyboardist Robert Walter leads his own 20th Congress outfit as well as playing in Phish’s Mike Gordon’s band. Guitarist Elgin Park (real name Michael Andrews) is a successful film scorer.

A few short writing sessions led to the collective reconvening for three days to lay down these nine mostly instrumental tracks with few overdubs. As the disc’s title implies, much of the music reflects a lighter Latin/Caribbean flow helped by bubbling percussion from Davey Chedwiggen. There is a clear 70s jazz fusion vibe driving the sound; a mash up of The Crusaders, Booker T. & the MG’s, and The New Mastersounds with a steaming helping of The Meters bringing the humid New Orleans grit. Overall the approach is less edgy than, say James Brown as the Allstars lock into a foot tapping groove that won’t drive most listeners into a dancing frenzy.

The Greyboys call their sound “West Coast Boogaloo” which is also the title of the collectives long out of print 1994 debut, due for reissue in August.  Things stay spirited for this disc’s 47 minutes but seldom break loose like you might expect, or want. Still when they hit a soulful lick as on “Les Imperials” and “The Skipper,” these guys lock in like they have been playing together weekly, rather than this being a reunion after seven years apart.

The riff that gels on the closing “Rebounder” has the organ and sax synching before Denson takes off on a solo that would make King Curtis proud. His flute floats the melody of the title track infusing a percolating world beat. Walter shifts his organ into gospel mode, bringing a bit of church to some tunes by taking the Booker T.-styled supporting role, especially on the pulsating “Executive Party.”

Perhaps the vocals on “Warm Brass” could have been skipped without anyone noticing and the lighter than a soufflé “Born Into Space” treads a little too close to dentist office music, or something you’d hear while on hold. But it’s still refreshing to have the talented Greyboy Allstars back, getting frisky and funky, if only for a short while between other commitments.

It has been too long.    

Photo by Robbie Jeffers. 

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