Boogie Band Comes to Vail tonight
Robert Walter’s 20th Congress rolls into town for another show at 8150. The music begins tonight at 10.
Growing up, Robert Walter, a 31-old jazz funk pianist and composer from San Diego, Calif., attended the School of Creative and Performing Arts, studying classical harmony and piano. And paradoxically, he and his band are both creative and classical.
“I’ve been into this late ’60s, early ’70s soul/jazz thing,” he said. “Guys like Donald Byrd, Lou Donaldson, Lonnie Smith, John Patton and Grant Green. That’s my core stuff.”
His music is a combination of soul, funk and boogaloo, all of that complimented with modern grooves. No wonder his fans run the gamut from jazz and funk aficionados to advocates of hip-hop and dance music.
“What we are really trying to do is find a place where dance music and jazz meet, so that the music is still appealing in a physical and visceral way, and it moves you physically to get up and dance,” said Walter. “We put a strong emphasis on rhythmic ideas, but then also have some jazz content. We try to give the audience something to listen to and think about so you are not just beat over the head with this funk thing. People just have to come to a live show, because that’s really where the music happens.”
In addition, these guys love improvising.
“I improvise because I like to express some sort of …. stuff,” he added. “We’re an all-instrumental (group) so it’s pretty abstract and we don’t have any political agenda. So I more play around with musical ideas, and without getting too esoteric, try to express some emotions that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to put into words or write down on paper. These are abstract ideas that are more suited to music. The improvisation allows me to explore these ideas.”
Robert Walter has been surrounded by music since childhood. His step-father was a drummer and it was him who turned young Walter onto blues and jazz. Walter took piano lessons, but before he finally settled on it, he played a number of instruments. Asked what actually made him choose the piano, he said, “it was easy to compose on.”
In 1993 he became a founding member of the Greyboy Allstar, the band which led the funk charge in the mid-1990s. After five years of touring throughout the U.S and Europe, the ensemble broke up.
Walter decided then to found his own band. He named it Robert Walter’s 20th Congress.
“After the band (the Greyboy Allstar) was over, I decided I wanted to continue touring and performing so I started my own band to showcase my writing,” said Walter.
Robert Walter’s 20th Congress are Robert Walter, electric piano and organ, Cochema Juan Gastellum, alto sax and flute, Chris Stillwell, bass, George Sluppik, drums, and Chuck Prada, percussion.
“Health and Fitness”, “Money Shot” and “There Goes The Neighborhood” are the albums they’ve released so far.