The Greyboy Allstars to Kick Off This Summer’s Free Concert Series06/21/2023 03:24PM ● By Suzy Magill
It’s official - summer is here and free concerts are back. We caught up with keyboardist Robert Walter from The Greyboy Allstars who will be at Howelsen Hill on Friday night as the first band in the Steamboat Free Summer Concert lineup. Read on for more about the group’s “magic” chemistry, how their sound was formed through the decades and what to expect on Friday.
Steamboat Magazine: To start with, can you tell me a little bit about the band? I know you guys have been around for a while. What do you attribute that longevity to?
Robert Walter: Our group has a strange kind of magic chemistry. We’ve all worked with all kinds of other people, and it’s just something we always come back to. From the first time we played together, our first rehearsal, we’ve just had a kind of telepathy and it’s stuck around ever since. Even though we’ve all done a million things and played with a lot of other people, there’s something about this group. It’s more than the sum of its parts.
SM: You released an album last year, almost 20 years after your first album…how is it similar and how is it different?
RW: The last thing we did was recorded live in the studio, and it’s more of just a document of us playing, which the first album is sort of similar to. They both kind of bookend our discography in an interesting way because they’re both made real quickly with single takes and no fixes or overdubs. It’s very minimal production. In between that, we’ve done things that are a little more ambitious. It’s still pretty much always a live band with some overdubs and stuff like that, but the first and last albums are especially minimal in their approach. The first one came from budgetary concerns. We only had one day to record and we had a live set, so we just recorded that. 20 years later, we did the same thing during COVID lockdown. We got in a room and wanted to play, so we filmed it and released a “best of set.”
SM: How would you describe your sound and its influences?
RW: Our sound kind of came out of collecting records in the ‘90s. We all were interested in jazz and improvisation, but a lot of what was considered the straight ahead, well-respected jazz of the time were things that were above our heads. We were attracted to these records that nobody was into at the time. It was the stuff that sat right between jazz, soul music and funk.
In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, a lot of jazz artists started covering tunes by James Brown or The Meters or popular Motown tunes, things like that. I always really liked the way it came out sort of sideways through the filter of jazz musicians. Those were the kinds of records we really got turned onto. It came kind of sideways via hip-hop too, because people were starting to sample those records in order to make beats in the 90s. We’d hear a sample on a record and be like, “Where is that from?” But you had to do all this stuff without a print, so you had to collect vinyl to find this music at the time. That kind of blew our minds. It felt like you were discovering this secret music not a lot of people were into. That became a thing we started to emulate. Between that jazz funk stuff, James Brown and score music from the ‘60s and ‘70s, it’s all kind of funky, but it’s not one chord of funk tunes. As time went on we wrote our own stuff and found our own sound, but that was our roots.
SM: Have you played in Steamboat before?
RW: We played here years ago. I’ve gone throughout the years with my own group, and Karl Denson, our saxophone player has been with his band a few times. We toured quite a bit in the mountains in our early days.
SM: What can Steamboat expect from this first concert?
RW: It’s a different setlist every night, so we don’t really know until we get there exactly what we’re gonna play, and then within that, it’s pretty improvisational. We’ll make a list and start playing, but it’s always a unique event, because it’s largely unscripted. We respond to the crowd and each other and just see what happens.
For more information on the Steamboat Free Summer Concert Series, visit: https://www.greyboyallstars.com/
For more information on the Greyboy Allstars, visit: https://keepinitfree.com/