Robert Walter’s 20th Congress bring Spacesuit to D.B.A., 10/18

For several years organist and keyboardist Robert Walter was a fixture on the New Orleans scene, performing in various combos and collaborating with New Orleans musicians. Since moving out of town, he’s put together a new version of his flagship band, the 20th Congress, featuring two local stalwarts—drummer Simon Lott and guitarist Chris Alford. They will perform songs off their new album, Spacesuit, at D.B.A. Thursday night.

Spacesuit is a bit of a departure for Walter whose modus operandi has mostly been mining the fertile territory of jazz, funk, and soul as it was practiced by the greats throughout the 1960s and 1970s. For the new album, Walter decided to stretch his influences into another realm entirely.

While the album retains much of his hallmark scintillating keyboard work and the quartet, which also features funky bassist Victor Little, is tight at the proverbial drum, some of the sounds may seem out of place to listeners used to Walter’s more straight ahead soul jazz work particularly on his albums with New Orleans drummer Stanton Moore and with his seminal group, the Greyboy Allstars.

Walter switched his source of inspiration from digging through the crates for old albums to gazing speculatively skyward, imagining new worlds rather than emulating classic records. His explosive funk and soul grooves move into outer space, blending inspiration from science fiction movies, comic books, and art.

“I wanted to break myself out of writing music about music,” Walter says. “I remember when I was a kid I loved all the mysterious qualities about science fiction, comic books, and movies. I started looking at those kinds of things, trying to find something to get influenced by other than musical genre worship.”

So, while the music retains it’s inherent groove, other elements creep in creating a fascinating aural palette that includes blips, beeps, and sound effect flourishes that make the music sound incredibly fresh. Imagine collaborating with R2-D2! Of course, with Lott and Alford on board, musicians who honed their sound in the funky environs of New Orleans, losing any sense of the groove would be impossible.

Expect to hear some of the new tunes as well as some of Walter’s classics reworked by this exciting new version of the 20th Congress.

Showtime is 10 PM.

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