Good God Almighty, it’s time to get funky! This is the kind of CD that’s guaranteed to not leave your stereo for long periods of time. On There Goes the Neighborhood, jazz keyboardist Robert Walter has created a truly exciting and unique slab of good time music that is unparalleled. And with a little help from drummer Harvey Mason, guitarist Phil Upchurch, bassist Chuck Rainey, tenor saxophonist Red Holloway, and percussionist extraordinaire Chuck Prada, there’s nothing not to like here.
Walter is a fantastically talented keyboardist, and his Hammond organ, piano, and Fender Rhodes work throughout this disc is simply jaw-dropping. Fluent in funk, blues, soul, and jazz, Walter and his band The 20th Congress have been cooking up soulful grooves over a couple albums that have caught the attention of all ears within listening range. Walter himself was one of the founding members of The Greyboy Allstars in the ’90s. On There Goes the Neighborhood he steps up to the plate and scores 11 huge home runs.
For fans of the Stax/Memphis/Booker T. kind of sound, then this is the disc you’ve been waiting for. Sure, Walter’s band here doesn’t work within the same kind of respected “less is more” approach that Booker T. and the MGs popularized with their classic sides, but his Hammond work and soulful grooves are no less stunning. This is the kind of music to get up and shake your ass to. A music to celebrate with, a music to listen to, a music to hear when you just need to smile.
And the music truly does speak for itself. Even with those funny song titles like “2% Body Fat”, “Corner Store”, “Bakery Buns”, and “Swap Meet” (but really, how odd are those when compared to similar titles in the Booker T. catalogue like “Jelly Bread”m “Tic-Tac-Toe”, and “Slim Jenkins’ Joint”), the melodies, riffs, and power of the rhythm section all shine through. Sometimes, as on “2% Body Fat”, the songs take on a kind of groovy, ’70s cop show quality, while on other things like “”Corner Store”, Walter’s Hammond exudes a indelible whimsy that gets under your skin and never washes out.
And it is things like “Corner Store” that really hit the Booker T. stride. With its simple riff that goes up one way, and down the other, and is then complemented by an absolutely killer chorus riff that blows the intoxicating first bit away, the song just cooks until it’s about ready to boil over. But this band is all about keeping things tight and loose. Not too much foot on the gas, but no sudden pulling on the reins make this album a complete delight to listen to again and again.
But of course, when you have cats like Chuck Rainey (who laid down the fabulous bass part on Steely Dan’s “Peg” from their Aja album, amongst other things) felxing his musical muscle and Red Holloway blowing some tasty sax that never takes over or chesses up the mix, you can’t go wrong. There is equal parts jazz to the fun of the funk here, but fear not, as Walter makes this music fun for everyone. Jazzbos aren’t the only ones invited to the party here.
On a track like “Swap Meet” for instance, there is a real New Orleans style R&B flavor running amok in the mix. Walter’s piano struts its fine eighty-eights in your face while Chuck Prada keeps things flowing with his smooth, shaking percussion. Not even Dr. John could lay down something this fine these days. And forget that kook Harry Connick, Jr. Walter’s got it all over everyone within a 50 mile radius of The Big Easy.
Indeed, Walter exudes a passion and exuberant flair for the sublime and superb that leaves one breathless. It’s truly hard to sum up in words how fine this music is. So there can only be one solution. That’s right. Head on over to your favorite music store downtown or online and snap this puppy up with open arms. You need only experience sounds like “Bread and Water”, “4:00 Wash Up”, and “There Goes the Neighborhood” to become a fan. One listen is all it takes. This is truly excellent music. Robert Walter is a mastermind of funk that can certainly make anyone get up and dance effortlessly.