The name WRD sounds like a radio station and the music of this organ trio will at times remind of those days in the ‘60s and ‘70s when the sounds of Booker T. and the MGs, Grant Green, Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and others would grace the airwaves on our favorite FM station. WRD weaves their gritty, greasy, funky sound with a contemporary fare. Yet WRD is simply the first letter of the surname for three prominent bandleaders, joining for their debut, The Hit.
The trio features The New Mastersounds’ guitarist/bandleader and Color Red record label founder, Eddie Roberts, high energy drummer Adam Deitch, and seasoned organist Robert Walter. Roberts shaped the idea for the group during many long nights at the New Orleans Jazz Festival where the three made a pact to one day make music together. Perhaps it was the byproduct of the pandemic, lack of touring, that finally afforded them the opportunity.
While each is a bandleader, the looseness of this format allows each to be clearly heard individually and equally while affording enlivened interplay. Walter, who plays keys prominently in The Greyboy Allstars, has a flair for nostalgia and a let’s-not-be-too-serious attitude. Deitch, who drums in the funky band, Lettuce, makes his potent presence felt in every tune and Roberts, who shreds in the band, The New Mastersounds, brings deep funk and often wild guitar excursions.
WRD first began recording as a trial of sorts after a small handful of impromptu performances such as Bear Creek Music Festival. Their first session was in 2018 at Color Red Studios in Denver, CO. In that time, the music just emanated naturally and rather volcanically too. On that one day, the members were able to lay down four excellent tracks. About a year later, the trio got together again at Color Red in 2019 and laid down another seven songs in a single session. Produced by Roberts, in total, this debut came from essentially just two days of work. That’s the mark of instantaneous chemistry as many of the songs came in one take. Hence the title: The Hit.
The trio settles into comfortable funk grooves on “Corner Pocket,” Bobby’s Boogaloo,” and “Chum City,” getting their groove on so to speak. Guest Nick Gerlach adds a gutsy tenor sax to the latter giving it some extra punch. Others are a bit more involved and better reveal the scope of each member’s talent. “Judy” underscores Roberts’ funky guitar stylings, Walter’s melodic bent and steady comping, and the driving but compatible pulsating beats of Deitch. Those who love funk will revel in the trio’s mastery of the idiom. “Red Sunset” gets a lift from guest Josh Fairman on bass guitar while Gerlach returns to lead the melody in his extensive turn on “Hot Honey” with more than ample support from the trio. Interplay is tight throughout, but most evident on the enchanting “Meditation” or the fiery “Sleep Depraved” where each member strives for the next gear, creating an unrelenting, careening thrill ride.
Yes, this one has the high energy ingredients we’ve come to enjoy from Dr. Lonnie Smith who is still going strong (his latest Blue Note release, Breathe), some of the work of organist Jared Gold with Dave Stryker, or earlier late ‘60s and early ‘70s material from Detroit Motown guitarist Dennis Coffey and his organ trios, all of which are covered on these pages. WRD has both the power and the nuance of the best organ trio stylings. Listeners are advised to check out the recordings of each of these member’s bands as well. Make no mistake, the organ trio is not a dated concept- the vitality of WRD being a case in point.