The Greyboy Allstars – West Coast Boogaloo (1995)

Plenty of funky jam-bands exist with the necessary skills to establish a deep groove and fill a dance floor, but many lack the virtuosity required to flood a tune with adventurous, confident solos that skim atop tricky but harmonically sophisticated arrangements. A mind can quickly wander when confronted with weak guitar noodling, metronomic drumming and by-the-numbers horn charts. In an ideal world skill and faultless taste wouldn’t be a point of difference, but in the real world these qualities are increasingly harder to find. San Diego outfit The Greyboy Allstars emerged in the mid 90’s and evolved to become a slick and popular unit. Their humbler beginnings are well chronicled on their excellent debut release West Coast Boogaloo. Strongly groove-based with lashings of inspired jazz overtones, this is no mere pedestrian funk-sampler. Joined here by legendary trombonist Fred Wesley from James Brown’s revered horn-section, West Coast Boogaloo is more than a platform for the incredible talents of saxophonist and flutist Karl Denson, around whom the Greyboy Allstars were formed. This is a true whole-band effort with earthy contributions from Robert Walker on organ and guitarist Michael Andrews (a.k.a. Elgin Park), but for me it’s all about the awesome rhythm-section of bassist Chris Stillwell and the crisp snake-hipped drumming of Zak Najor. These two nearly steal the show, particularly Najor who drives this thing right into a world of wonderfulness. Denson amazes with his acid flute soloing, and his sax work is simultaneously hot and cool (his vocal performance on ‘Tenor Man’ is the only draw-back on the album). Drawing inspiration from the street-wise jazz-funk of the late-60’s and early-70’s (including a faithful update of Rusty Bryant‘s ‘Fire Eater’), their love of this music is total yet they aren’t afraid to attempt a reverential but modernist imprint of their own that works thanks to the clean production and sharp performances. Typically overlooked upon its released and still relatively little known now, this is a slab of joy that must be investigated. Don’t be surprised if it soon becomes your go-to for funk relief.

 

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