Money Shot

Robert Walter's 20th Congress

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Money Shot Review

by Nathan Bush

Ex-Greyboy Allstar Robert Walter continued to establish his own name with this 2000 release. Following the success of the Gary Bartz collaboration Spirit of '70 (1996), the keyboardist assembled his Robert Walter's 20th Congress for the recording of the Health and Fitness EP three years later. Money Shot finds Walter, Chris Stillwell (bass), Cochemea Gastelum (alto sax, flute), George Sluppick (drums), and Chuck Padra (percussion) stretching out over an hour on their first full-length. There hadn't been any major developments in the yearlong gap; all the musicians are in fine form and the electric jazz-funk sound of the 1970s continues to be the guide. Regardless, these are fine settings to showcase the musicianship of the band as a whole and Walter in particular. The leader employs a hefty keyboard arsenal of the Wurlitzer/Hammond/Fender sort, occasionally changing the flavor with acoustic piano. Not surprisingly, the more engaged Walter is, the more engaging the overall results. On the best music here, thought after thought spring from his fingers without a single break in the flow. His grasp of musical dynamics means that you will undoubtedly be following right along with him. The title track is a magnificent centerpiece: a journey into the cosmic jazz heart à la Mwandishi era Herbie Hancock/Weather Report. Its shape-shifting, disjointed groove is broken by astral-tinged flights of fancy that increasingly head for stranger territory. "Blues for Y2K" follows the lead. Dispensing with opening procedures, Stillwell and Sluppick dive right in, only to settle into a lazy groove once they've reached their destination. In the process, they almost lose their way, but the group always seems to maintain a sense of adventure, even when the improvisations seem to be meandering.

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