Two Nights of The Greyboy Allstars: Talking with Robert WalterJune 12, 2017
It’s not every day that Nectar Lounge gets to welcome a band as well-known, talented and beloved as The Greyboy Allstars. The groundbreaking, improvisational jazz and funk quintet make their triumphant return to Seattle on June 15 and 16. Made up of Karl Denson (Saxophone), Elgin Park (Guitar) , Robert Walter (Keys) , Chris Stillwell (Bass) and Aaron Redfield (Drums), the five-piece have released four records together, as well as remaining busy with successful individual projects. As tickets continue to sell rapidly for their Nectar shows, we took time to ask Robert Walter about the band.
Nectar Lounge: The Greyboy Allstars have been a band for over two decades now. How did you first meet and begin to play music together?
Robert Walter: Our first gig was planned as just a one off for DJ Greyboy’s record release party for his album Freestylin. We played at the Elbo Room in San Francisco. We enjoyed playing together so much that we just kept doing it. I had been in a band with Chris Stillwell and Zak Najor (original Greyboy Allstars drummer). Elgin and Karl knew each other from before as well. There was an instant chemistry.
NL: Over those two decades the lineup has remained pretty much the same. How do you manage to work successfully together for so long?
RW: It has helped that we take breaks from the band to pursue other interests. When we come back together it feels fresh and we can appreciate each other.
NL: Though DJ Greyboy is no longer a part of the group, do you think you’ll ever reunite for a show or recording?
RW: Once in awhile we do a show together. He has always been a philosophical influence if not always a collaborator.
NL: When we talked with Karl back in February, he mentioned how The Greyboy Allstars is a completely collaborative and democratic band. Can you talk about what that looks like in regards to writing and recording?
RW: We mainly write together. Maybe someone comes in with a loose idea but it always takes on a new shape once we start playing as a band. Everyone’s voice is important, which leads to sometimes lengthy and messy discussions about the details. In the end though everyone feels invested in the songs and a sense of ownership of the direction.
NL: Do you have any plans for new material?
RW: We are working on new material now and will play some of the new songs at these upcoming shows.
NL: What has been your most memorable performance to date?
RW: It’s impossible for me to name just one. We played a gig with Gary Bartz as a guest a couple years ago that meant a lot to me personally. Tipitina’s during Jazzfest in New Orleans earlier this year was special as well.
NL: You’re playing Nectar Lounge for a two night run in June. Why should folks come out to the show?
RW: Seattle is always fun for us to play. I always feel inspired to experiment a little. We have new tunes, also two nights is usually good for us because we get comfortable and relax. And McTuff!
See The Greyboy Allstars live in Seattle this Thursday and Friday, June 15 and 16. Friday advance tickets are now sold out, but Thursday is still available.