ROCKY MTN REUNION: GBA IS BACK!

Words by Nathan Rodriguez :: Images by Tobin Voggesser

Greyboy Allstars :: 03.02.06 :: Fox Theatre :: Boulder, CO


Greyboy Allstars :: 03.02 :: Colorado

They have returned to reclaim the throne. After an extended hiatus, the Greyboy Allstars are back with their original lineup, tourdates across the country, and their first studio album in nine years, tentatively slated to release in the Fall.

The band emerged from San Diego in the early 90s with a determination to blend various genres from jazz to blues, funk, soul and hip-hop. Their resulting creation proved to be a menacing cocktail of funk and jazz with a certain sensibility that demands precise playing. On their better nights, there is a definite loftiness inherent to their playing – fast, clean, crisp, kinetic yet controlled.


Greyboy Allstars :: 03.02 :: Colorado

For the uninitiated, the Greyboy Allstars are Karl Denson on sax and flute, Elgin Park on guitar, Zak Najor on drums, Chris Stillwell on bass, and Robert Walter on keys. Though they parted ways several years back, they have been busy polishing their chops on various other projects: Karl Denson with his band, the Tiny Universe and Robert Walter with his own 20th Congress as well as spending time with Galactic's Stanton Moore and Robert Mercurio in the powerful Frequinox lineup. Elgin Park even penned the music for Donnie Darko, and the whole band saw some of their tunes used in Get Shorty.

After the stunning announcement of their reunion, the band embarked on a tour of the Rockies, stopping in Aspen, Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins. The Fox Theatre in Boulder is second-to-none with respect to acoustics, and we were fortunate enough to be inside for the festivities as others braved the cold, hoping to snag an extra ticket for the sold-out show.


Karl Denson - Greyboy Allstars
03.02 :: Colorado

The band's setup was fairly straightforward with an unsophisticated light show – about twenty lights that remained stationary for the majority of the night. Karl Denson bid a simple "Good Evening" to the crowd, and the band launched into "Smokin' at Tiffany's." A few well-defined basslines provided a cushion for Elgin to venture out for a stroll on the guitar. Denson took the next solo and found a little more help with some air-tight drumming by Zak Najor and great fills by Robert Walter that seemed to encourage Karl to air it out a bit more.

Denson introduced the third tune of the evening, "Left Coast Boogaloo," by noting its presence on their upcoming release. Elgin Park and Robert Walter each saw their first chance to stretch out with their first soloing of the night as Najor worked overtime on the beat, prodding it along relentlessly.

One of the more intriguing facets of the performance came next with "Cramp Your Style." Najor, Walter and Stillwell were the perfect power trio for guest rapper Mainflow to spit a few lines in front of, with Elgin Park jumping in on occasion. It wasn't bad, it wasn't great. It was met with a relatively tepid response though, and no more than ninety seconds later, he was off the stage and wasn't seen again.


Greyboy Allstars w/ Mainflow :: 03.02 :: Colorado

While pondering what had just transpired, "Hot Pants Breakdown" had a fiery opening that gave the crowd a much-needed energy boost. Robert Walter led the band with some of the most impressive work of the night through a pair of back-to-back solos. At its conclusion, the crowd responded with hoots and whistles of appreciation.

A light and breezy "Miss Riverside" cooled things off, with Denson swapping his sax for the flute. Park had an acutely focused solo, with his muted tone riding securely in the pocket. Clocking in at just over ten minutes, "Miss Riverside" was the longest song of the first set, but it lacked a certain punch.


Karl Denson - Greyboy Allstars :: 03.02 :: Colorado

Karl D then stepped up to the mic for "Lady Day," which features a warm groove with Walter and Stillwell on auto-pilot. Karl is phenomenal when putting some brass between his lips, but his stock dips when he pours vocals over an already-full sound. A rare sense of idleness ensued, with pockets of the crowd becoming chatty as others headed for the restrooms or another round.

"Black Whip" followed, and it ended with Zak Najor getting a few minutes to demonstrate his ample chops before an eager crowd. The song fizzled out just a bit, and Denson seized the opportunity to note that tonight marked the 14th Anniversary of the Fox Theater.


Greyboy Allstars :: 03.02 :: Colorado

Closing the first set was another new song, "Deck Shoes." A casual, sauntering tempo appropriately fit Denson's musings on the flute. The band congealed for another minute as Denson introduced them and parted after announcing they would return shortly.

Their playing was exemplary, but the band almost seemed to be holding back just a tad. Sure, it was still early in the night, but with a couple of exceptions, they were focusing on getting the sound as tight as possible, and the soloing became a little less adventurous. The setlist was a bit eccentric in terms of tempo, and the ninety-second cameo by Mainflow threw everyone for a loop. The playing was very good, but the flow was disjointed. During setbreak, comments tended to be of definite satisfaction, but a bit short of amazement.


Park & Denson - Greyboy Allstars
03.02 :: Colorado

"What Happened to TV" opened up the second set, with Elgin infusing some bluesy explorations into the sound. The song went as quickly as it came, and Denson prefaced the next tune with the query "Now who here likes soul food?"

"Boogaloo Boogie" ensued, with Karl D singing the praises of chitlins and other soul food side dishes. What the song lacks in lyrical prowess, it makes up for in musical arrangement. Robert Walter again rose to the surface with some glorious swoons and the impassioned playing of a church organist.

"Steelbender" proved to be the coming-out party for Denson on sax. For my ears, his best playing in the first set was on the flute. This, however, added some kick that greatly enhanced the sound. They then deconstructed the tune to a nice little guitar/organ duel, with Najor propelling the beat with a unique shuffle. The band had regained its swagger.

"Quantico, VA" was the first true highlight of the evening, with Elgin Park ripping through some hot jazz riffs with an attitude. Najor again ignited the jam with flat-out superior playing, which allowed Walter and Denson to offer up some of their better playing of the night. In the final minute of the song, the band rotated around the main theme while Najor slammed home a solo. Clocking in at less than seven minutes, it was vintage Greyboy playing: tight and light superfunk.


Greyboy Allstars :: 03.02 :: Colorado

"Hot Dog" was a chance for Walter to showcase his range on the boards, and it wound up being the true showstopper of the night. The rest of the band acted as a cohesive unit while Walter led them through the tune, which had a recurring start-stop theme that seemingly enabled the band to take it out as far as they'd like. The torch was passed to Elgin who soloed for a couple minutes before breaking things down into the Zak Najor show again. The other band members gathered at the back of the stage, watching him work his magic before seamlessly slipping back into the meat of the song. Karl was up next and belted out a truly soulful euphony that roused the crowd to a heightened state of frenzy.

Though the song began to lose steam instead of ending with a bang, "Kissing my Love" quickly followed. There is a prominent bassline in the song, which was a rare opportunity to see Chris Stillwell in action. Denson was clearly still riding a wave of confidence, and his lightning-quick, on-point chops carried the first few minutes of the song.


Robert Walter - Greyboy Allstars
03.02 :: Colorado

"Gravee" followed, with a funky gumbo of Park's wah-pedal and Walter's clav. As the song grew softer, Karl picked up the flute, and the song went out with a gentle flutter.

From those contemplative depths emerged "Right On," a burst of energy that brought the rump-shakin' back to the Fox. Park led the jam to a crescendo, with Walter and Najor making the appropriate fills. The crowd reached a fever pitch, and Karl cooled things off with a well-polished solo that grew with intensity. Denson brought the jam to two separate peaks, and it was here that Robert Walter displayed his remarkable talent. At times, he mimics and complements the sax so well that it seems there is an entire horn section, or at least an additional brass instrument, in the band. Just as Tupac Shakur would double and triple his vocals on a single track for emphasis, Walter's work on the keys amplified and accentuated Denson's playing on the sax.

The idiosyncratic hop-step rhythm of "Jack Rabbit" would prove to be the set closer and featured some exceptionally detailed interplay between Walter, Najor and Stillwell. Walter was working his way out of a solo when Elgin Park threw him a lifeline. He and Najor forced the issue by amping up the intensity and allowed Walter to swell over the top before returning to more familiar ground. After balancing things out, Denson reintroduced the band, announced a few upcoming shows, and kicked back into the song before bowing out.

For the encore, the band returned with "Happy Friends," a song that typifies the band and their performance – energetic playing that never dabbles in discord. Here, Robert Walter was bound and determined to deliver a filthy solo that left many in the audience shaking their heads with a stupefied grin etched across their face. He is a remarkable talent, and these guys can flat-out play.

After years of hibernating, the Greyboy Allstars are finally back. They were missed, and are certainly not to be missed anymore.

Setlist from the Fox Theater – March 2, 2006
I: Smoking at Tiffany's, Volcanic Acne, Left Coast Boogaloo, Cramp Your Style, Hot Pants Breakdown, Miss Riverside, Lady Day, Black Whip, Deck Shoes
II: What Happened to TV, Boogaloo Boogie, Steelbender, Quantico VA, Hot Dog, Kissing My Love, Gravee, Right On, Jack Rabbit
E: Happy Friends

Upcoming Shows
03.30 | Georgia Theatre | Athens, GA
03.31 | The Music Farm | Charleston, SC
04.01 | Orange Peel | Asheville, NC
04.02 | Cat's Cradle | Carrboro, NC
04.03 | Starr Hill Music Hall | Charlottesville, VA
04.05 | Avalon | Boston, MA
04.06 | Theater of Living Arts | Philadelphia, PA
04.07 | 9:30 Club | Washington, DC
04.08 | Irving Plaza | New York, NY
04.09 | Recher Theatre | Towson, MD
04.14 | House of Blues | Chicago, IL
04.15 | House of Blues | Chicago, IL
05.06 | Tipitina's Uptown | New Orleans, LA
05.19 | The Fillmore | San Francisco, CA
05.20 | The Fillmore | San Francisco, CA

JamBase | Boulder
Go See Live Music!

http://www.greyboyallstars.com

[Published on: 3/16/06]

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Comments

fatsean Thu 3/16/2006 02:46PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

i saw the show at the aggie, it was sick. wouldve like to hear denson get a little more into the grooves though

Alex.Anastas starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/16/2006 03:14PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Alex.Anastas

These are some of the nastiest funk cats alive, and you are doing yourself a diservice if you don't drop whatever your plans were, and go and see them! Good luck not being wiped after dancing your booty off!

gifthorse76 starstarstarstarstar Fri 3/17/2006 03:11AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

That was one of the best written articles I’ve ever seen on this site. Nathan Rodriguez is obviously a fan, yet he delivered the story with objective discerning taste and just enough style to make it interesting. Frankly I can’t believe there aren’t more comments on this one. Grey boy is one of the original bands from the early nineties that made the scene before there was one. I rather pay good money to see them over a lot of the new stereotype jambands that seem almost formulated for the dready festival shows that keep getting more and more commercial by the year. Hats off to Greyboy and thanks to Nathan Rodriguez and Jambase for the update.

Kadgar starstarstarstar Sat 3/18/2006 07:30AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I love GBA!
You forgot to put that they are playing Wakarusa.

Chickie Tue 3/21/2006 12:20PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Gotta check Chris Stillwell's band "Fully Loaded." Just caught them in CO and they tore it up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Mon 4/3/2006 09:25AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

Just saw GBA in athens at the GA theater!! Damn they are soo good.. Solos from robert, karl and Elgin are simply, perfect!! Truly an allstar band, I love those guys!!

AND YES.. go see FULLY LOADED... its on par with GBA!!!!!!!