Robert Walter Announces Debut Album ‘Spirit Of ’70’ Reissue Featuring Greyboy Allstars & Gary Bartz

By Nate Todd Mar 5, 2021 3:46 pm PST

Robert Walter will reissue his 1996 debut album, Spirit Of ‘70, in vinyl and digital formats on May 7 via Royal Potato Family. The album features the keyboardist’s The Greyboy Allstars bandmates as well as legendary saxophonist Gary Bartz.

Spirit Of ‘70 was the second in a planned series of albums that featured different members of The Greyboy Allstars as bandleader in emulation of “the rotating personnel of the Blue Note and Prestige labels where a core cast of musicians would take turns as a leader, while drawing on the others as sidemen,” as per a press release. The group further expanded on the idea by bringing in a figure from the previous generation who heavily influenced The Greyboy Allstars sound. Enter Gary Bartz.

“We loved the ‘Harlem Bush Music’ albums by Gary Bartz,” Walter said in a statement. “Somehow the idea became to have Gary on the next record, which would be mine to lead. He was a hero for us because of his lucid improvisations, deep connection to blues and heavy spiritual vibe. My contributions to The Greyboy Allstars at the time had been tending more strange and meditative, so it seemed like a great fit.”

The Greyboy Allstars — keyoboardist Walter, saxophonist Karl Denson, guitarist Elgin Park, bassist Chris Stillwell and drummer Zak Najor — along with Bartz and Skip on percussion convened in producer DJ Greyboy’s living room to record the album, which saw the band settling into the intimate space (a door can be heard opening on the track “Impervious”). The album also sees Walter utilizing classic analog instruments including Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3 organ, Clavinet and Mini Moog as well as guitarist Elgin Park plugging into a Caliphone portable record player in lieu of an amplifier.

Walter recalled the session further in a statement. Read his words below:

We had been touring heavily at the time so the band had an easy chemistry, but this was my first album as a leader, so I was both nervous and star struck by the presence of Gary Bartz. Before long the tension eased and the recording was fun and loose. I remember Gary playing one great solo after another while we just tried to get a mistake free take behind him. I learned from the sustained flow of invention in Gary’s playing. It made me want to become a better and more true improvisor. He helped to elevate the music beyond just a throwback funk tribute. This was art being created in real time and in the present. That early inspiring experience did a lot for my confidence as a composer and arranger.

I remember making this album as a highlight of the early days of The Greyboy Allstars. I think it captures the band right as it is beginning to establish its own identity. We are taking the lessons learned from emulating the records we love and starting to create something unique. I’m still very proud of this one.

Some of the songs on Spirit Of ’70 had featured in Greyboy Allstars live sets while some, the aforementioned “Impervious” as well as “Palilalia,” Walter wrote specifically for the album. Additionally, the record contains two covers “Jan Jan” by organist Mose Davis and Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Miss Lover.”

Walter shared “Corry’s Slug & Snail Death” to preview the reissue. Listen below:

Spirit Of ’70 Tracklist:

  1. Volcanic Acne
  2. Corry’s Slug & Snail Death
  3. Bidi Man
  4. Palilalia
  5. Kick To The Head, Burrito On The Floor
  6. Little Miss Lover
  7. Impervious
  8. Jan Jan
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