Como De Allstars is the fifth studio album and sixth overall from The Greyboy Allstars and it’s terrific from track-to-track. GBA formed over than 25 years ago in San Diego and immediately rekindled the light of “boogaloo” music, a popular Latin form from the 1960s in New York City. Their music has a feel for funk, jazz, beach and soul music.
Since their seminal album West Coast Boogaloo, this group has been hitting us with great but all too infrequent albums and even less frequent live shows. The Greyboy Allstars play together a few times a year now finding perennial respite from their busier gigs. On one such trek, they were in Texas for a rare weekend of shows. In Dallas, though, their set was canned due to raging weather. They found an open rehearsal room and challenged themselves to write their first new tunes in half a decade. They reveled in the same rapport they felt when they first stepped into a practice so long ago. “Getting the physical bodies together is almost impossible, given our schedules,” says Elgin Park (Michael Andrews, guitar). “But it immediately feels like it did back then. We have such a great time.”
Denson captured the Dallas jams with his laptop and passed them around. The Allstars soon reconvened for another writing session in San Diego, the band’s cradle that remains the hometown for half its members. They decided to capture these songs much like they’d done in their earliest days, particularly for West Coast Boogaloo—on the cheap and on the quick, without overthinking a concept or production.
They dubbed the sessions Como de Allstars as a spin on the Spanish phrase como de costumbre, or “as per usual,” since they’ve always been at their best when plowing through tunes without hesitation. The Greyboy Allstars’ dual missions—to preserve the heritage of jazz-funk giants and empower it to grow on their terms—seem timeless now, as witnessed by their return with Como De Allstars.
Check out my comments and listen track-by-track below.
- Como De Allstars: Crash and we’re off with that latin style bass, drum percussion intro with Karl’s flute floating on top so fresh. This is one of only two tracks with lyrics and they are encouraging and inspiring alternating with the message, “Use your voice, fight till you’re satisfied! Anything you hope for can be yours if you really try!” Karl’s flute playing is always super special and it carries through most of the tune. Walter also takes a bright bouncy solo toward the end before the chorus comes back in. It’s incredibly beautiful, powerful and will make you move and also make you think.
- The Skipper: After a nice bass intro, the horns kick in with a 70s funk feel and then Karl takes over on tenor. This one really shows the all-star caliber of the band with excellent drum back beat and a terrific guitar solo midway by Elgin. Immediately Karl jumps back with more soulful tenor lead and and the support makes you feel like you’re cruising down the road. Walter’s up next with some cool B3 with a complex sound playing on multiple levels. Then we’re back to the main theme for most of the duration.
- Catalina: Yes, you could be sailing, with great combined flute & sax playing from Karl at the onset. The high-paced smooth tune with the bell-sounding percussion is terrific throughout. Elgin, comments “this is a Karl Denson jam and we supported his idea with a bright rhythm track. I had just got a set up tuned bells and went to town on them.” In the second half Walter get’s a nice boppin’ B3 solo with a nice Elgin guitar solo immediately following. Karl’s soloing here is smooth and strong and demonstrates why he is one of the most enduring players of our generation.
- Executive Party: The opener is a nice bass riff with some heavy organ next followed by short tenor grooves. The tenor chorus repeats and takes a nice ride over top before some stop and go drums form a mini break. The tenor “voice” comes back with that stop and go backing and Karl “rasping” on the break. Walter comes in again on the second half for for some riding and gliding over the stop and go, just like Karl. Aaron Redfield takes his first album solo turn next before the band rides together and Karl and Robert take us to the close.
- Warm Brass: This one has that Southern rock feel right down to the twangy guitar and slow summer-day lyrics. It’s one of only two with lyrics on the album – like a cross between Allman Brothers and Beach Boys and a real throwback 60s style song. Karl sounds like he could be backing The Stones right here. Definitely a “dreamin” psychedelia song.
- Born Into Space: This is a floatie flute tune and Karl’s at his boppin’ best with a tease of Girl from Ipanema. This one’s almost stripped down with heavy roles from Karl and the drums, with a light touch by Walter on keys. There’s some nice overdubbing of Karl’s sax on top before a (could be guitar?) synth solo from Walter for the close
- Complete Breakfast: opens with a choppy funk head, dominated by Karl and bass. Karl’s overdubbed sax yields to nice course of Walter solo with drum/bass accompaniment. Another funky sax solo follows with some fast flowing notes, squeaks and squawks. The head theme comes back before the break with a sly low key chill group chant to round out the tune.
- Les Imperials: Let’s roll a twitchy guitar, drum pairing with extra saucy sax and we’ll have a grand tune. These guys seem to just groove naturally and make it sound easy. All these new songs have a very traditional feel. Great bass and drum lines, Karl’s flaring flights, the sultry guitar solos make it so comfy to put in your head. Walter’s just masterful in riding the waves on this. Then the main theme comes back for the final run.
- Rebounder: Allright, let’s get funky with a guitar riff with drums pounding before the fast-paced loopy horns begin. The Diesel-Walter combo is firing it up here and shows how well and how long they know each other. Definitely one of the best combos in the business. There’s a nice guitar solo interspersed in the middle with some plucky picking. Walter comes back cruisin and shows why he’s considered one of the best B3 on the scene in recent memory. Another nice percussion-drum duo ensues before the main theme comes back before Karl hits for the short stop closeout.
Man, I would love to see these guys live when live music returns. The Greyboy Allstars’ music is classic yet fresh at the same time. They cohesiveness and skill level is at the top of the industry and the combination still puts out some of the best tunes around. You can buy or stream this highly recommended album here.
Released July 3, 2020
Karl Denson – Vocals, Sax, Flute, Percussion
Elgin Park – Vocals, Guitars, Bass
Robert Walter – Keyboards, Organ
Chris Stillwell – Vocals, Bass, Guitar
Aaron Redfield – Drums
with Davey Chedwiggen – Percussion
Recorded & Engineered by Todd Burke
Mixed by Todd Burke at Lime Street
Mastered by Dave Cooley at Elysian Masters
Recorded at Elgonix Labs, Glendale, CA
Recorded at Studio 64, Los Angeles, CA