There Goes The Neighborhood – Robert Walter
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Judging from this disc, keyboardist Robert Walter is a man with a goal: to
bring back 1972. He certainly makes an impressive effort with this solo CD,
a jazz/funk outing not hindered by anything up-to-date.
In addition to bringing his vintage B3 and Fender Rhodes to the sessions,
Walter assembled an authentic crew of players. Who out there owns anything
recorded after 1980 featuring Phil Upchurch, Chuck Rainey or Harvey Mason?
It's particularly notable that Walter and producer Brian Brinkerhoff have
steered Mason away from his recent, smoother, stock of trade — his drums
sound like they're in a garage, and are even rawer, and more in the James
Brown/Tower of Power mold, than his work on Head Hunters back in the day.
Together with saxophonist Red Holloway and 20th Congress percussionist Chuck
Prada, Walter's crew tackles an upbeat, accessible and mostly original set
of instrumentals. The lead players get to stretch out, but Rainey and Mason
remain rooted in the groove rather than interacting too extensively.
Swap Meet is a good example of the fare here – it resembles Ray
Charles's Hallelujah, I Love Her So set to a New Orleans groove, and
boasts some nifty chord changes in the bridge. Only two cuts deviate from
the norm: the goofy Bakery Blues, featuring some looniness from
Holloway, and the gospel-tinged closer Luck, a welcome appearance of
the emotionality and depth that is otherwise not the group's concern here.
That points towards the one thing that casts a shadow on the party — the
works that inspired this outing, even Head Hunters, were attempting to
communicate and do something new, rather than reshuffling hip sounds and
influences. Perhaps that hints at a worthy next step for Walter. However,
reviving the old sounds is a decent starting goal for a young player, and
that he certainly does.