The Greyboys Are Back
It’s rock that does it best for me. It can come in whatever stripe – indie, heavy metal, with an orchestra or without, with a synth or without, folk-infused, progressive… you name it. Rock is my first preference when I want to listen to music. I like the blues too and R&B, some hip-hop, some post-rock, electronic dance music even, and sometimes experimental avant garde but not as much as I like rock. But there are those occasions when nothing but a classic jazz album will work for me. At such times, my well-thumbed sleeve of Miles Davis’ 1970 double album, Bitches Brew is brought out, and spun and, in spite of the nasty scratch on Spanish Key (first track on Side 3), I marvel for the umpteenth time at the fabulousness of that towering jazz-rock fusion album, its tracks, of course, but also the deadly line-up that trumpet guru Davis got together for it.
Then there are those occasions when only Keith Jarrett’s Fort Yawuh (1973) will do, particularly the track named De Drums, a 12-minuter when drummer Paul Motian, bassist Charlie Haden, saxophonist Dewey Redman, percussionist Danny Johnson and, of course, the man himself, Jarrett, who not only plays piano on the album but also the soprano sax, hold me in thrall. Music is a matter of personal taste and some Jarrett fans I know don’t care as much for Fort Yawuh as they do for his other work – The Köln Concert, Nude Ants, Sleeper and so on – but my favourite is Fort Yawuh. Sometimes a bond develops between listener and album and there can be many reasons for that. For me, Fort Yawuh was the first jazz album that I really liked and one that made me seek out other great jazz music.
That kind of thing works in the case of a band as well. The first time I heard The Greyboy Allstars in the late 1990s, I immediately liked them. It probably was the timing. I was listening almost exclusively to post-Grateful Dead jambands those days, Phish, Umphrey’s McGee, moe., Disco Biscuits, The String Cheese Incident, and so on, when someone recommended a 1995 album by the Allstars called West Coast Boogaloo. It was jazz but of a different variety, blended with funk and soul, and the band, in fact, was a collaboration between a jazz quintet and a DJ, DJ Greyboy, whose trademark sound was 1970s funk. The quintet comprised musicians, each of whom were super formidable in his own right, especially, Karl Denson on horns and Robert Walker on keyboards, both with their own bands and touring ensembles. The six men jammed in San Diego, and an incredible band was formed.
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