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Words by: Haig Assadourian :: Images by: Tony Stack
Greyboy Allstars/MMW/Cut Chemist
04.14.07 :: Fillmore Auditorium :: Denver, CO
It's been ten years since the Greyboy Allstars last released an album. After over three years of "reunion" concerts teasing faithful fans, it's a pleasant surprise to discover a new album of material (What Happened to TV?) being supported with a national tour. Co-headliners Medeski Martin & Wood joined the bill in Denver to celebrate their own recent release, Mago (a duet from John Medeski and Billy Martin). Apparently, the jazz funk scene has legs.
Cut Chemist :: 04.14
Cut Chemist got the groove started early Saturday night with a mesmerizing set of booming bass lines, old and new techno funk, masterful scratching and dual video screens of morphing surreal images. The small but growing crowd buzzed around the venerable Fillmore as I reacquainted myself with the hundreds of photographs and posters from decade's of legendary performers that cover the walls. During set break, Medeski, Martin and Wood paced quickly past me and soon emerged for their set.
Medeski's nasty funk Hammond organ, the trademark of this trio, quickly filled the hall while Billy Martin kept time on pots and pans. The band primarily worked through older material but also unveiled newer pieces like "Hanuman" and "Tequila & Chocolate." They ran through a diverse mix of styles in their eight-song set, including an Italian pizzicato serenade followed by a loungy game show theme song. This wasn't the most exploratory MMW set I've heard but it certainly offered compelling variety.
MMW :: 04.14
After a brief break, the Greyboy Allstars appeared. It's the original lineup with the exception of longtime drummer Zak Najor, who is not touring despite playing on the new album. Guest drummer Eric Kalb filled in superbly. Familiar Allstar jams soon gave way to new material, which is less heavy but just as funky. Guitarist Elgin Park did his best to sing a high pitched lead on "How Glad I Am,"
a catchy pop song rendered a bit more capably by the Living Sisters on the new album. Park is almost convulsive as he works his guitar, and he may be the unsung hero of this group. On less charged material, he fills just enough space with subdued harmonies around Karl Denson's horn and flute to not step on them. Robert Walter, who can take over a show with his masterful keyboards, showed remarkable restraint, content to complement the others throughout the set.
Greyboy Allstars :: 04.14
Denson and Walter have proven to be more than capable bandleaders and songwriters. Walter, who recently spent several months touring with Steve Kimock's band, just seems to get better by playing with as many great musicians as he can. To see them flourish in a collective as equals with Park, Chris Stillwell (bass) and Kalb was impressive. No one player dominates, and the solos never drag. The entire set smoked. At one point, I turned aside and noticed Willie Nelson's smiling face on the Fillmore wall during a particularly well polished jam. I had to agree with Willie on this one.
The spaced out introduction to Denson's "Check Out Your Mind" welcomed out local trumpet player Hugh Ragin, who blasted a mighty solo to the crowd's delight. The two-song encore included the Beatles' "Get Back" and a "Quantico VA" finale that brought the house down.
Elgin Park - GBA :: 04.14
This superfunk extravaganza was a highlight of the Denver concert year. MMW's unique compositions were an excellent appetizer for the Allstars, who sounded as fresh today as they ever did. The individual members of the Greyboy Allstars have obviously benefited from their various side projects. It's clear the band is still hungry, and one hopes GBA can sustain the creative energies that drew them back together for years to come.
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