Robert Walter

Super Heavy Organ

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Robert Walter calls his instrumental heavy organ music "soul-jazz," but that ignores the strong funk element ever-present on all of his albums. This one is no exception, as the opening track, "Adelita," charges out with Walter's Jimmy Smith/Jack McDuff-styled keyboards, driving saxophonist Tim Green into a roaring solo. For this recording, made live in a New Orleans studio with crisp sound, Walter chose top musicians to help the vibe, such as drummers Johnny Vidacovich and Galactic's Stanton Moore, along with bassist James Singleton. The music is baked in the New Orleans groove, with doses of the Meters, Galactic, and Dr. John mixed in. Walter pushes the sonic envelope by shifting into slightly experimental waters during parts of "(Smells Like) Dad's Drunk Again," but he never strays too far afield. The Medeski, Martin & Wood similarities remain present, but Green's sax helps distinguish the sound, which is less acid-styled and generally funkier than MM&W. The songs shift from shorter, tightly wound three- and four-minute nuggets to extended, jam-heavy pieces. The rhythms and tempos change enough so that the album never stagnates, although it does wind down in its final quarter, with the closing nine-minute "Cabrillo" making the disc probably one track too long. Vidacovich's always inventive percussion is never less than sensational, and even when Walter's keyboards become a bit repetitious, the drumming is propulsive enough to pull the listener through the few rough spots. There are many highlights, but "Criminals Have a Name for It," which rides on a bed of stark, offbeat handclaps, is an ear-catching example of this combo at its most inventive. Walter's B-3 playing is indeed heavy, but never heavy-handed, a distinction that makes this one of his most successful releases.

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