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Some funky grooves

Emphasis (on Parenthesis)
Emphasis (on Parenthesis)
By the Stanton Moore Trio

Telarc Records: 2008

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Cure All
Cure All
By Robert Walter

Palmetto Records: 2008

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These reviews first appeared in Turbula in May 2008.

Former San Diegan Robert Walter (Greyboy Allstars, Robert Walter's 20th Congress), now based out of New Orleans, finds his organ at the heart of two new releases: his own, and Stanton Moore's. Both are funky and soulful takes on modern jazz, combining a '60s Hammond organ trio approach (think Jimmy Smith or Jimmy McGriff) with New Orleans R∓B and the kind of post-mainstream rock-infused jazz being played by folks like Medeski, Martin & Wood or the Bad Plus.

Moore's album is the harder-driving. Drummer Moore and Walter are joined by guitarist Will Bernard – even without a bassist, this album has much of the feel of a loose improvisational jam around simple riffs that marked so much of the better work of Booker T. & the MGs. It's got heavier jazz influences than the legendary MGs ever did, and Walter's organ isn't as prominent on every cut as Booker T.'s was (Bernard gets a nearly equal share of the leads), but that vibe of a group of supremely gifted musicians all on the same page is present throughout.

Walter's own release is also played by a trio – in this case, organ-bass-drums. The approach is more firmly rooted in jazz than Moore's, with Walter stepping away from organ to play both a Fender Rhodes and an old-fashioned acoustic piano at times. Without a guitarist to share the load of carrying the melody, Walter's playing is more firmly in the spotlight – and he meets the challenge with a much broader array of skills than exhibited on the Moore outing. Stylistically, this album bounces from the R&B of both the Moore album and Walter's own previous releases to pure jazz to some fairly experimental tracks.

Bassist James Singleton and drummer Johnny Vidacovich create a tight foundation for Walter's playing, whether it's the groove-based sounds of "Snakes and Spiders" or "Cure All" familiar to fans of Walter's earlier work, the straight-ahead "Parts and Holes" or the off-kilter acoustic piano jazz of "Coupe." If a bit less consistent than Moore's release, Walter's outing is also far more ambitious.