Robert Walter w/ Gary Bartz: Spirit of ’70

Revisiting this 1996 classic from keyboardist and founding member of The Greyboy Allstars Robert Walter today. This collaboration with legendary saxophone colossus Gary Bartz, put out originally in 1996, has been reissued from Royal Potato Family.

Sounding as fresh and funky as it did twenty-five years ago, one of the founding members of TGBA who has played keyboards with the band for a quarter-century plus, alongside saxophonist Karl Denson, guitarist Elgin Park, bassist Chris Stilwell and drummer Zak Najor put together a banger of a debut record. Recorded at DJ Greyboy’s living room turned studio, the concept of the record was to emulate the Prestige and Blue Note labels with musicians who would take their turn as bandleaders and using each other as sidemen. A common practice back then, and we all know how many of those classic records turned out. They also would enlist a legend from a previous generation to play with them. This time it was Bartz.

“We loved the ‘Harlem Bush Music’ albums by Gary Bartz,” says Walter. “Somehow the idea became to have Gary on the next record, which would be mine to lead. He was a hero for us because of his lucid improvisations, deep connection to blues and heavy spiritual vibe. My contributions to The Greyboy Allstars at the time had been tending more strange and meditative, so it seemed like a great fit.”

This relaxed atmosphere allowed the band to play close together in a confined space, with Park’s guitar being recorded not through an amplifier, but through a Caliphone portable record player and even at the beginning of “Impervious” you will hear a door open by someone unaware recording was going on. Little nuances, but really added vibe and feel to this special recording. While most of the tracks on Spirit of ’70 were material performed by TGBA live, Walter playing an array of vintage keyboards, including Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3 organ, Clavinet and Mini Moog added two original compositions, the aforementioned “Impervious” and “Palilalia”. Also included were two covers, The Fabulous Counts’ “Jan Jan” and a soul-jazz rendition of Hendrix’s “Little Miss Lover”. With Walter’s lead, this record blazes through rare grooves, soul-jazz, boogaloo, and other groove-oriented highlights. It feels like the early ’70s, sounds like the early ’70s, and with a head nod from one of the greatest Gary Bartz, this one deserves to be on your shelf to revisit again and again. Listen to the record below and order from Royal Potato Family after the stream.

Get the record here.

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