Review: Greyboy and The Kreutzmann Trio

Actually hopping on stage ten minutes early (Who the hell starts a show with a double bill like this at 9:30 on a school night, anyway?) the Bill Kreutzmann Trio started into a nice groove right away. Kreutzmann’s trio consists of Oteil Burbridge on bass and Scott Murawski on guitar and vocals. The story goes that Phish bassist, Mike Gordon, introduced Murawski and Kreutzmann while traveling in Costa Rica. They got together and jammed for hours. Playing in this power trio is Burbridge’s gig when he is not playing bass in his other band, the Allman Brothers.

Musically, this show was spot on. While Kreutzmann kept the back beat rolling in a blur of elbows and drum sticks, Burbridge slapped the bottom end around on his six string bass. And Scott Murawski (from Max Creek) played double duty, shifting seamlessly between rhythm and lead guitar while also singing every word like he meant it. Like I said, musically, pretty darn good.

One thing that I didn’t understand with this band was the set list. They played some reggae. They played some flat out rock and roll. And they played Grateful Dead songs.

Now, hear me out. These guys played really, really well together. There were no set lists on stage, so they played whatever Bill Kreutzmann called out and they played it very well. And Bill’s a great drummer. Second to none. But he didn’t sing a note all night. It struck me, mid way through Sugaree, that I was watching a very talented cover band. I know that the crowd had come to see “the drummer from the Dead”, but if I want to sea a band cover Dead tunes, I’ll wait till Dark Star Orchestra come to town.

Put it this way. Would you pay good money to see Max Weinberg in the hopes he played Born to Run and made it sound like Bruce was singing? Even Ringo Starr steers clear of Imagine and Michelle in favor of Octopus’s Garden and Act Naturally. Would you pay good money to see Bill Watts of the Rolling Stones play drums in a band in the hopes that they sing Miss You and who ever is singing can hit the exact note Mick Jagger can still hit on his own? I didn’t think so. I’d go see Charlie because his other band is a very tight jazz ensemble. And, if they cover a Stones song in concert, believe me; no one would ever mistake their rendition of Jumping Jack Flash for the original.

Let me stress that the band played great. I was just hoping for something a little different. More original stuff from the three virtuosos on stage. More improvisation, maybe. I don’t know. I didn’t let that distraction keep me from dancing the time away in my spot up front. It was, after all, the drummer from the Dead. When they hit the last notes of Bertha, I had worked up a sweat and was smiling ear to ear.

The Greyboy Allstars started a little after eleven o’clock. The funk and groove of their opener, Wynder K Frog put everyone in the crowd right back into their dance mode. Led by Karl Denson (DJ Greyboy left the band after their first release) on vocals, saxophone, percussion and flute, the Allstars kept up the frenetic groove for over two hours. On keyboards, Robert Walter switched easily between electric piano and Hammond organ, adding a honky-tonk feel here, a soulful gospel sound there. The rhythm section combination of Chris Stillwell on bass and Aaron Redfield on drums at times seemed as one musician, that’s how together they were. And the guitar work of Elgin Park was, as usual both inspiring and heartfelt. I got the impression that Park was holding back a little at times. His riffing came across as restrained for the first half of the show, but he let it wail in the second half, getting almost hair metal on us during the intro to V-Neck Sweater, adding an urgency to the song I hadn’t imagined before.

The cover song of the night award goes to the Allstars for their take on Burt Bacharach’s Walk On By. Dionne Warwick couldn’t have touched this version, as they played it fun and funky, even tossing in a little of the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song towards the end.

Throughout the set, Denson had a nice rapport going with the audience as he bantered between songs. We all had a lot of fun with his introduction of Hot Pants Breakdown. But this show was not about the banter, it was about the music. The talent of this five piece shone in literally every cut. Communication limited to a head bob or quick finger point, each member took their soloing seriously and played with as much fire and fun as any touring band I’ve seen in years.

Of course, this is Karl Denson’s band. He led them through each song masterfully. A flurry of movement all night, he would grab maracas or cowbell and shuffle off to the side of the stage while the other band members grabbed their time in the spotlight. He’d get back to his spot in front of the microphone mere nanoseconds before blasting out the next note on the sax, or belting out the next verse.

All this time, the floating dance floor was working overtime, bending and flexing as the crowd responded to every high point of every song. Some were dancing in place, others twirling and roaming where ever the crowd let them through. I looked back at one point and noticed that everyone in the balcony seats were not in their seats. Instead, they too were swaying and dancing to the infectious groove emanating from the stage so far below them. Giving up their comfy chairs, they were not able to resist the lure of the funk.

Rock On Through The Fog

(Or Funk)

A.J. Crandall

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