A Contrarian’s Guide To…Greyboy Allstars

Ever since his Contrarian’s Guide To Ryan Adams, I’ve been trying to engage our friend Chilly JackWater in enough conversation that eventually some vitriol will spit out into the night. Following our meeting at the Greyboy Allstars show on Friday, I mentioned to Chilly that the band was a little too spacey and that this was probably the worst GBA show I’ve seen. His e-mailed retort?

“Spacey” is nice jambandy word for what it really was: 80 percent smooth jazz. I’m sorry, but those guys have lost a step. Maybe it’s because the room was simply too big for them, but you take [keyboardist Robert] Walter out of that band and you’ve got something that Donnie Simpson would be raving about on BET Jazz (“Mmmmm…that was the latest from the Greyboy Allstars. Next, we have a cut from India.Arie.”)

I really want to like Karl Denson, but I think he needs to lay off the flute…and the Human Growth Hormone. I’m not sure who will carry the acid-jazz torch in this scene, but someone needs to. I know that you’re a Duo fan and I think they’d be the logical ones. But there is something missing from their sound. I think it’s, you know, another two or three band members.

Relatedly, if you haven’t seen Karl Denson in the past few months, here’s a recent picture. That’s quite a difference from the band’s opening act, ?uestlove, who looks like he’s eaten at least two or three of The Roots in the past few weeks.

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4 Responses

  1. Was the Irving Plaza show the only other one you’ve seen? It was for me which I guess makes it the best and Nokia the worst, if I had to label the two in that sense.

  2. I know you’re asking Chilly, but I’ve seen GBA four times…three this year after the reunion and once in 1998 when the goings were good, first time around. And this one wasn’t even remotely in the same ballpark as the other three — this one was the Trenton Thunder playing in the AL East.

    And I don’t blame the lack of the regular drummer, I just think there was a spaciness to it that extended well beyond the original intention of said spaciness. Three-fourths of that second set was basically noise I coulda made in my apartment. I have nothing but love for these guys, but that show was not on par with anything I’ve seen them do.

  3. Yeah, I have also seen them a handful of times, but have been listening to them for nigh on a while now. I know what they are/were capable of. In fact, if you’re looking for someone to perform a hearty, solid reach-around on Robert Walter, then I’m your man. (I actually came within a tequila sunrise or two from doing just that when I met him at San Francisco’s Boom Boom Room one time). And as for the substitute drummer, apart from possessing the largest head (physically) of anyone on this scene, Eric Kalb is a great drummer who I have seen take over shows. And he’s played with them plenty. (Where was Zak, anyway? Was there a rouge band of non-believers that needed to have the Gospel read to them?) I have a friend who loved him some of that GBA back in the halcyon 90s and he saw them at Jazzfest in 2004 (or ’05). If I remember correctly, his review contained the phrase “soft bitches.” You won’t find that quote in their press kit. Now that show, like the one at the Nokia, was in a venue way too large for them, too (either the Saenger or the State Palace). So maybe that’s the issue at bar here. Unfortunately, I stand by my original contention that the true issue at bar is one “Karl Denson” and the decision he has made to pursue his career as a jazz flautist, and spurn his former preofession which, I believe, was described as “saxophonistic face melter.”

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