Covid shutdown or not, 2020 is proving to be a productive year for Greyboy Allstars. In July, the band released “Como De Allstars,” its first album of new material in seven years. In August, they re-released their 1994 debut album “West Coast Boogaloo” on vinyl. Had it not been for that famed Texas rain, “Como De Allstars” might not exist.
The Allstars were scheduled to play a weekend of concerts in Dallas in 2017 when a massive rainstorm postponed the event. Since each member of the Allstars has their own main gig or gigs, getting everyone in a room together can be difficult. With a few days together, the band decided to rent a rehearsal space and see what they could come up with. Drummer Aaron Redfield, feels the time together was fruitful.
“We were supposed to play in a shed. There was no way we were going to take any chances with that. So, it became the classic case of ‘we are all here,’” Redfield states. “Typically, there are no lack of ideas that are ever coming from one member of the band. So, in that time, we literally had more than half the record written. It was such an efficient use of time and we had a blast.”
Guitarist Michael Andrews agrees, confirming “Getting the physical bodies together is almost impossible, given our schedules. But it immediately feels like it did back then. We have such a great time.”
While there was no specific musical theme for “Como De Allstars,” the band did focus on putting out an album meant to be listened to from start to finish.
Redfield explains, “The general feeling is we wanted to pay homage to those classic party records. Whether it be Grant Green or Kool and the Gang, just one of those records that front to back will go onto the party playlist.”
“Como De Allstars” kicks off with a quartet of songs that add a little island vibe and salsa to the band’s signature jazz-funk sound. “Como de Allstars” and “The Skipper” both let each band member take their turn showcasing what they bring to the table. Whether it’s Karl Denson’s sax, Elgin Park’s guitar, or Robert Walter’s keys, the band finds a nice cohesion off the bat.
Bassist Chris Stillwell adds two songs to the album with “Catalina” and “Executive Party.”’
Redfield says Stilwell really stepped up for this album, his contributions more profound this time around. “It’s straight up the middle funk that is so guttural and adds to these whimsical island tracks.”
To say the Elgin Park contribution, “Warm Brass,” is a departure from the first four “island” tunes might be the biggest understatement in the history of recorded music. This wonderful alt-country, folky song comes out of nowhere in the middle of the record to, as Redfield put, it “make sure everyone is paying attention.” Think Wilco-meets-early-70s-Grateful Dead in this uniquely wonderful offering.
The rest of the album moves back to the straight jazz/funk sound while allowing the band to be a little more explorative, especially on “Born into Space.” “Complete Breakfast,” “Les Imperials” and “Rebounder” showcase the unique southern California sound the Allstars have been pumping out for more than a quarter of the century.
The Greyboy Allstars have also re-released a vinyl copy of their hard-to-find debut album “West Coast Boogaloo.” The 1994 release was a showcase of what the band had been doing during their early residencies at San Diego’s famed Green Circle Bar.
While Redfield wasn’t a member of the band at the time, he was around the Allstars scene in the 90s, adding, “I remember seeing those songs from the beginning…before there was even a thought of recording them. It encapsulates what was happening at the Green Bar at the time.”
Redfield has wondered how the band’s next album would have come about, if not for that floody weekend in Texas. He states “honestly, it may have come out at the same time. It’s funny how that stuff works. We prioritize the band and enjoy our time together.”
Redfield says the plan moving forward is to keep playing 50 or so Greyboy Allstars shows a year so everyone can focus on their other musical interests.
With over a generation of making music together, keyboardist Walter knows it won’t take long to get everyone back on the same page when the time comes.
“This band has so much chemistry, it really never was hard work,” he says. “So, it’s never that hard to get back to it, even if we haven’t played for a year.”
“Como De Allstars” is available on Knowledge Room Recordings. “West Coast Boogaloo” is available on vinyl at Light in The Attic Records.