Robert Walter is best known as the keyboardist in the legendary acid jazz/funk/boogaloo band the Greyboy Allstars. He’s also a member of Phish’s Mike Gordon’s touring band. Get to know our TALENT SCOUT Artist of the Week.
NAME: Robert Walter
HOMETOWN: San Diego, New Orleans and Los Angeles.
MUSICAL TRAINING: I took piano lessons as a kid, but they didn’t hold my interest. Most of what I’ve learned has been from playing with people and listening to records.
FIRST GIGS: I played both drums and keyboards in various bands while I was a teenager, It was mostly original music. I was coming out of a punk rock scene in San Diego, but my bands were also interested in jazz and funk music. Eventually that led to the formation of the Greyboy Allstars.
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: I listen to a lot of music and collecting records is my hobby. My favorites are jazz, soul and funk records from the '60s and '70s. I also like early electronic music, reggae and rock and roll. For keyboardists, I really love Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Smith and James Booker.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW: Can, Neu!, King Tubby, Jackie Mittoo, Bobby Timmons, Pat Martino, Cymande, Main Source,Trouble Funk, Miles Davis, Chaka Khan.
MY BIG BREAK: My biggest break was joining the Greyboy Allstars back in the early 1990s. That band allowed me to quit my day job, travel and improvise every night. I love and still work with all those guys.
LATEST PROJECTS: I’m releasing a instrumental science fiction concept album called Spacesuit on September 21 with my band, Robert Walter’s 20th Congress. It’s a combination of New Orleans rhythms, synthesizers, and adventurous ensemble playing. I was needing new inspiration, so I started digging into sci-fi films and comic books. It gave me something else to draw from other than just music. I also gave the musicians visual material by artists I like along with the musical charts. I tried to point everyone in a direction and then allow freedom to create on the spot.
FAVORITE KEYBOARDS AND WHY? I always go back to Hammond B3 organ and the Fender Rhodes. These are two of my favorite sounds in all of music. Although electric, they both feel alive and organic. I love the solid and handmade construction of them too.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? I continue to tour with my own group, as well as the Greyboy Allstars and Mike Gordon. I’m also writing new music all the time.
ADVICE TO THE NEXT GENERATION: Spend some time focusing on composition. It informs your improvisations and adds perspective even when you are performing someone else’s music. It’s important to try to understand the intention of the music you are playing and not just the notes.
For more information visit https://www.robertwalter.com