By Andy J. Gordon
The San Diego based funk and jazz group, Greyboy Allstars came to the Mint in Los Angeles on April 23, 2011. This group of talented musicians each has other successful musical projects, so a live Allstars show is relatively rare, and highly anticipated by fans. When these guys get together, anything is possible, and a long night of improvisational magic is usually the result. They introduced several new tunes along with many of their standards to a fired up audience.
Karl Denson, who is a saxophone wizard, as well as accomplished flutist and vocalist, plays the role of leading man for the Allstars (www.greyboyallstars.com.) Elgin Park on guitar, Chris Stillwell on bass, Robert Walter on keyboards, and Aaron Redfield on drums complete the quintet. They usually stick to extended instrumentals, but the Mint show included some vocals by Denson and Park which added to the accessibility of the material. The first set featured some blazing saxophone and flute solos by Denson on tunes like “Back in the Game” and “Still Waiting.” Both Park and Walter showed their chops with funky solos throughout the show. These guys have crazy skills and draw from a hugely diverse musical history. The set ended with a creative cover of Petula Clark’s “Walk on By” that also contained a tease of the Mary Tyler Moore show theme song.
The second set started with new material. “Trash Truck” and “Multiplier” contained the expected tightly crafted funky jazz beats. “Breaking Blood” featured vocals by both Denson and Park. Things heated up when Denson sang “I’ve Got Reasons,” a soul infused funk song that has been part of their repertoire for a while. That segued into the great instrumental “Happy Friends” from their 1999 album A Town Called Earth. Denson’s tenor sax, Park’s guitar riffs, and Walter’s keyboards formed a magical blend of jazzy bliss. Park was the star on the Kenny Burrell cover, “Suzy,” a blues infused jazz instrumental. Another new tune that closed the set showcased the versatility of Chris Stillwell and Elgin Park. They swapped instruments, with Park playing bass and Stillwell on lead guitar. There was a brief break before the encore. The band came back out and launched into the Beatles classic, “Taxman.” It was a fitting show closer, as Denson ripped another great sax solo, while the rest of the band displayed their skills with a uniquely Greyboy Allstars interpretation of the rock royalties’ classic. The band left the Mint (www.themintla.com/) crowd exhausted from boogying through the night to some truly inspired music.
Photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon