The Greyboy Allstars' Robert Walter on Rudy Van Gelder

MacEagon Voyce
July 21, 2020
The Greyboy Allstars (credit: Robbie Jeffers)

Self-styled “boogaloo revivalists,” The Greyboy Allstars stand tall as a bastion of acid jazz. The band formed in 1994 when rare groove maestro DJ Greyboy met Karl Denson, who at the time was playing sax for Lenny Kravitz (and now fronts his own band Tiny Universe and tours with The Rolling Stones). The idea was to play the music that rare groove DJs were spinning — Grant Green, Idris Muhammad, The Head Hunters— in a live setting. The duo soon became a house band and have been giving that music life for more than a quarter century.

The group's debut record West Coast Boogaloo — which features trombonist Fred Wesley of James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic fame—is getting its own reissue on August 7 via Light in the Attic Records. And Como De Allstars, the first new Greyboy Allstars album in seven years, arrived a few weeks back.

"What ties all of our records together is that we always come back to the basic premise established from the beginning. The musical food that sets the table for the 'West Coast Boogaloo' record sets the table for 'Como De Allstars,' as well," explained guitarist Elgin Park in a press release. "For better or worse we are the same band with the same objective: funky soul-jazz boogaloo that's danceable, while simultaneously setting the stage for inspired improvisation."

Robert Walter is the band’s keyboardist and one of its founding members. He leads the 20th Congress collective and plays in Mike Gordon’s (Phish) solo band, and for his Algorhythm he shared his decades-long introduction to the music touched by legendary producer/engineer Rudy Van Gelder

“In the early ’90s I had only been exposed to a limited catalog of classic funk music. My Dad had records by The Meters, James Brown and Herbie Hancock, but I didn’t yet know about the seemingly endless out of print gems that could be discovered while record hunting in thrift stores, garage sales and anywhere else you could find old records collecting dust.
When we first started playing in The Greyboy Allstars, we had a regular Wednesday night gig at the Green Circle Bar in downtown San Diego. DJ Greyboy would spin records before, after and between our two sets. He would usually start out playing rare jazz records and gradually introduce funkier tracks until by the end of the night he was playing Hip Hop that had sampled all the preceding styles. I would always watch and try to figure out what he was playing and started to realize how much I loved everything on the Prestige and Blue Note labels from the late ’60s and early ’70s. I was inspired by the way the musicians were reinterpreting popular soul music of the time and stretching it into long interactive grooves. I also loved the sound, which I later discovered was recorded for both labels (and later CTI Records) by Rudy Van Gelder at his studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
I started collecting anything that I could find that was recorded at that studio. I would read the liner notes and also buy records from any of the sidemen on the ones I loved. That’s how I got into Lou Donaldson, Grant Green, Leon Spencer, Rusty Bryant, Melvin Sparks, Funk Inc. and countless others. It was a way to discover more music, while learning the history, as well. I also began to realize that many of my favorite Hip Hop breaks had come from these albums. That really convinced me that all the music was part of a great tradition that was passed between genres more easily than radio formats or record bin categories would have anyone believe. The Greyboy Allstars started out emulating this music in a very faithful and literal way. As time has gone on we have stretched the boundaries and incorporated other influences, but I think it’s still the spiritual template for all that we have done.” 

Como De Allstars arrived on July 3. Give it a spin — and listen to our full Algorhythms playlist here.

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