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Preview: Robert Walter Trio @ the 8X10 10/2 10:00 pm

Robert Walter

Robert Walter is touring with his trio (Johnny Vidacovich – Drums, James Singleton – Bass) to promote his latest release, Cure All (2008), and will be playing the 10:00 pm show on 10/2 at the 8X10 in Federal Hill. If Robert Walter has slipped under your radar, you’ve been missing out on one of the most tasteful, funky, Hammond B3 organ players of our day.

If you’re into The Meters, The Neville Brothers and Led Zeppelin, you owe it to yourself to have a listen. If that’s not necessarily up your alley, it’s worth going just to hear a Hammond B3 organ and a Leslie rotating speaker in an intimate club (with spring-loaded dance floor).

After making his name as a founding member of the Greyboy Allstars in the ’90s, Robert struck out to make his name as a frontman. Teaming up to form Robert Walter’s 20th Congress with Stanton Moore (Galactic, Stanton Moore Trio), and Cochemea Gastelum, he realized a decidedly more New Orleans sound. During this era, he moved from San Diego to New Orleans to get closer to the source and started playing with The Maestro Johnny Vidacovich, James Singleton, Tim Green and other local masters. Over the last several years, he has hit a prolific stride writing songs for his own albums Super Heavy Organ (2005) and Cure All (2008), for Stanton Moore Trio albums III (2006) and Emphasis! (on Parenthesis) (2008) and for The Greyboy Allstars What Happened to Television? (2007). As a composer, Walter can run the gamut from boogaloo to sweaty New Orleans funk, to New York jazz and back again, all while being equally capable of creating mood, texture and excitement.

There are a lot of keyboard players on the scene these days and despite its super heavy size, the Hammond B3 organ remains a popular instrument for its unique depth of tones. Robert Walter is among an elite group of contemporary organ players that includes Bruce Katz, Joey DeFrancesco and John Medeski, among others.

One component of Walter’s style that differentiates him from other organists is his tendency to prefer substance over flash. His playing is incredibly tasteful and nuanced. There are only 12 notes but he seems to always find the right notes at the right time. The man’s not a bop wizard, but he’s got great chops when he wants to call upon them. Another unique facet to his style is his infusion of soul music with “classic” rock figures. You can hear how much some pieces are influenced by early Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. It’s a beautiful notion that musical traditions can come full circle, propagating in waves through time and space.

The Robert Walter live experience benefits from his tireless live performances. Everything is structured, but within that structure there is a lot of room for the players to stretch and play as the spirit leads. Listeners who are used to the tight pocket playing of protégé Stanton Moore may find that Vidacovich plays a little more fast and loose with the beat, but should appreciate his virtuosic linear drumming. Since I first heard Robert Walter live in 2004, I try to catch him playing live at least once a year and I’m never disappointed.

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One Response to “Preview: Robert Walter Trio @ the 8X10 10/2 10:00 pm”

  1. dasmb says:

    Walter’s style merges classic soul motifs with elements of hard rock and hip hop. He manages to sounds super modern without losing that Lonnie Smith bounce that makes the B3/Leslie combo so iconic.

    Also: that cat can GROOVE, man.

    Expect a night featuring a full range of emotion, highly accessible experimentation and dank funk straight from N’awlins.

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