The Greyboy Allstars are back with a groovy and uplifting new album that provides a timely antidote for the summer of 2020’s quarantined world gone mad. It’s a shame on Earth that we can’t see Jedi saxman Karl Denson and his cosmic funk cohorts in concert this year. But if you dim the lights and crank up Como De Allstars on the stereo, it feels like getting a Greyboy Allstars house party right in your living room.
Denson has long been known as a king of the late-night dance party scene, but he’s also developed a rep as a socially conscious jazzman with an inspiring soul power message about how humanity can and should be aiming for a better world. The new album’s Caribbean-vibed title track delivers here with a message of unity to transcend the divisive times we live in, as Denson sings of “Surviving in a bitter world / Divided, confused by the states / United, come on friends we’re gonna make it brighter.” Denson also sings out for personal empowerment with lyrics like “Use your voice / Anything you hope for can be yours if you really try.”
The song also features some classic jazz flute from Denson to elevate the track, as well as a boost from keyboardist Robert Walter’s groovy organ arsenal. There’s melodic chemistry between these two that has long powered the band’s creative direction, and it’s as vibrant as ever here.
“The Skipper” is a classic Greyboy groove session with stalwart bassist Chris Stillwell throwing down one of his patented pulsing basslines of the type known to spark dance floors in clubs and concert halls across the cosmos. Drummer Aaron Redfield keeps a tight beat as Denson delivers some of the stellar sax work that got him promoted to the English Premier League in 2014 when he was called up to become a touring member of the Rolling Stones.
The laid back yet still upbeat sound of “Catalina” continues the Caribbean vibe that conjures visions of the quintet playing at a tiki bar during sunset, with Redfield utilizing some ringing percussion tones under groovy melodies from Denson. Walter adds an exquisite organ solo as the band works through the groove, while guitarist Elgin Park picks some jazzy funk lines of his own.
The band locks right in on the cool groove of “Executive Party” with Stillwell and Park laying down an infectious melody line that is also chilled out at the same time. Then Denson comes in with his sax for some classic acid jazz exploration, while Walter expands the sonic landscape with his psychedelic Hammond B3. The quintet gels here in their traditionally groovy collective style, where each instrument feels like it’s leading yet also supporting at the same time. Such is the tone science mastery of the Greyboy Allstars.
“For better or worse, we are the same band with the same objective: funky soul-jazz boogaloo that’s danceable, while simultaneously setting the stage for inspired improvisation,” explains Park in a press release for the album.
“Warm Brass” features a laid back late night vibe where Denson sings of a dreamer dreaming while the band works out on a loungey retro groove. The groovy cool jazz vibe deepens on “Born into Space” as Denson floats some sparkling jazz flute over a mellow groove, like something you might hear at a Mos Eisley jazz club where the Guardians of the Galaxy have stopped in for a nightcap. Redfield delivers some jazzy flair on the drums here, but with lots of sonic room for Denson to weave through.
The band moves into a more syncopated groove on “Complete Breakfast”, with the song then evolving into a flowing jam catalyzed by Walter’s vibrant leads and some trippy electro effects. The band holds down a solid groove for Denson to work out on for another winning exploration. The set seems to start winding down on the laid back groove of “Les Imperials”, but it still keeps the mood elevated as you finish your drink and think about making another while Denson’s flowing sax interweaves with Park’s nifty guitar riffs.
The quintet cranks the energy back up on the set-closing “Rebounder” as Park throws down some funky riffage over a hot beat, while Denson cuts loose once more with Walter adding a wall of sound behind him to boost the energy higher still. Park lets fly with a nimble guitar solo too, which surges over Stillwell’s popping low end as the band closes the session with a big finish. In the end, there’s no doubt that Como De Allstars is a strong contender for the grooviest new album of 2020.