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New Orleans-based Walter — a founding member of The Greyboy Allstars — just released Spacesuit (Royal Potato Family) with his band Robert Walter’s 20th Congress. It’s the group’s first album since 2013 and finds Walter branching out from his traditional focus on the Hammond B-3 organ as he adds Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, piano, Moog and Mini-Moog synthesizers to keep the traditional soulful grooves he’s known for, but add flashes of jazz fusion, Krautrock and dub reggae to the interesting mix of original tracks.
In addition to his work with the Greyboys and 20th Congress, Walter has played in Phish bassist Mike Gordon’s band, done session work and recording film soundtracks. He lists Jimmy Smith, Herbie Hancock and James Booker as key influences.
“I wanted to break myself out of writing music about music,” said Walter regarding Spacesuit in a press release. “I remember when I was a kid I loved all the mysterious qualities about science fiction, comic books and movies. I started looking at those kinds of things, trying to find something to get influenced by other than musical genre worship.”
Like Walter, fellow keyboardist Hazelton also references some masters of the B-3 as key influences, including Dr. Lonnie Smith and Everette DeVan who taught the Kansas City, Mo.-based Hazelton all about the B-3 when Hazelton was “bitten” by the organ bug as a bass-playing 19-year-old student.
Paying tribute to such legendary keyboardists as Smith and Jimmy McGriff, guitarist Grant Green and saxophonist Lou Donaldson, The Basement Beat from at Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo Seven (Sunflower Soul Records) is a high-energy delivery of B-3 and horn-laden soul, recorded on eight-track analogue tape that captures the band in fine form on their debut studio work. Minus the opening cover of Melvin Sparks’ “Bambu” and the closing track, an instrumental take on the Sharon Jones-Bosco Mann “100 Days, 100 Nights” — Hazelton wanted to capture the spirit and sound of the Dap Kings — the album boasts five Hazelton compositions.