Robert Walter’s 20th Congress – Get Thy Bearings

The Royal Potato Family

The Royal Potato Family

All hail Robert Walter’s 20th Congress – back in session with their first studio album in 10 years. While keyboard master Walter has had plenty going on in the meantime (including his spot as a founding member of the Greyboy Allstars and collaborations with the likes of Stanton Moore, George Porter Jr., and Steve Kimock), his work with the Congress has always offered up some of his most out-there playing.

Walter is joined on Get Thy Bearings by longtime Congressman Cochemea Gastelum on sax, guitarist/bassist Elgin Park, Aaron Redfield on drums, and Chuck Prada on percussion with hornman Karl Denson guesting on a couple of tunes. The album’s nine tracks are a cool hybrid that’s heavy on the funk; a little bit old school; a little bit exploratory; and always a hoot to put an ear to (and often shake something, as well).

The opener “Hunk” is one of those “shake something” numbers: Walter doles out dollops of keys like warm jelly over top of the chukka-chukka groove with Denson showing up at the 2:25 mark with a blast of butt-grinding sax raunch. “Dog Party” is another guaranteed gotta-mover, packed with a vintage good-time R&B feel that almost segues into a vibe similar to Traffic’s “Glad” when Prada’s hand percussion nuzzles up against the piano. Gastelum’s sax is cool in a can when he takes a break on “Little Business”; his riff swaps with Walter on “Foxhunting” are nasty and wild; and his moment under the streetlight on the title track establishes the tune’s late-night tension. Park’s bass is the backbone of “Don’t Chin The Dog” with everyone weaving between the vertebrae – including some slippery flute by Denson.

Click HERE to read the conclusion of my review of Get Thy Bearings on Jambands.com

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