Robert Walter: Cure All (2008)
The advantage of working below the radar, as Robert Walter generally does, is that you are free of the cult of personality and celebrity that so often dilutes an artist's work. The disadvantage is that your good work, like Cure All, may not get the attention it deserves
It's not that Walter is without credentials. A once and future charter member of The Greyboy Allstars, he also fronts his own band, The 20th Congress, and continuously acts as role-player nonpareil with drummers Stanton Moore and Bobby Previte, among others. Cure All is Walter's first solo album since 2005 but, in keeping with his history, the recording's taken place in another trio alignment with the participation of bassist James Singleton and drummer Johnny Vidacovich, both of whom have a history, not to mention an affinity, for the spirit of New Orleans where Walter now lives.
The bulk of the album is what you might expect from Walter: easy grooving, Hammond B3-based tracks like "Snakes and Spiders," "Box of Glass" and "Measure Up." But the very familiarity of the approach is the key to its accessibility and the simplicity is refreshing rather than predictable. The quiet reflection within "T" may be the prime example, though it comes at the end of the album and effectively closes the CD with a flourish.
Yet piano-dominated tracks like the closer and "Money Changes," where similarly uncomplicated arrangements hew to traditional piano jazz lines, represent a novel approach for Walter. A straightforward progression acts as the intro to the tune, from which point Walter and the trio dart off in a variety of directions, a Latin vamp here, a barrelhouse change there. On his recent tour with GBA, Walter led the band in its most exploratory jams with electric piano at the fore, as it is on "Parts and Holes," so it's little wonder some of the most bristling interactions take place on this track.
The rhythmic accents, such as the bass figures from Singleton, keep the band in motion and call for attention. The relative brevity of the baker's dozen selections aids in that regard. Just as the trio reaches a logical stopping point, as with "Coupe," that's exactly what they do, then move on to the succeeding cut, which represents a change of pace on its own terms and in context of the album as a whole.
Walter composed all the material for Cure All, including its title song, with these two players in mind, so it's little wonder the playing of the threesome sounds natural and unfettered. And while there is nothing groundbreaking here, or anything close to it, the very depths into which Walter, Singleton and Vidacovich dig, plus the infectious quality with which they do it, make repeated listenings absolutely inevitable.
Track Listing: Snakes and Spiders; Money Changes; Cure All; Coupe; Scores of Spores; Parts and Holes; Rivers of Babylon; Maple Plank; Box of Glass; Measure Up; Hillary Street; Bulldog Run; T.
Personnel: Robert Walter: keyboards; James Singleton: bass; Johnny Vidacovich: drums.