Welcome to Fat City–or at least the white ghetto therein. The Greyboy Allstars, five guys from San Diego who kick the living daylights out of bristling vintage jazz-funk, aren’t the least bit embarrassed by their mostly Caucasian heritage. Quite the opposite: it’s spotlighted in the band’s name and in the liner notes by Fred Wesley, the trombonist from James Brown’s horn section. Wesley, who is black, points out that “it is shocking to hear this type of music coming from these young and, did I mention, white faces…[but] I learned a long time ago that not all of the great funk or jazz musicians are from Alabama, black, and over 50 years old.” Wesley refers to saxist-flutist Karl Denson as the “token black,” but he actually assembled the band four years ago: a respected hard blower with three albums under his own name, he has used the Greyboys’ two discs to explore the boogaloo beats of the late 60s and the hot-wired dance grooves that unfurled in their wake. On the recently released A Town Called Earth (available from Greyboy Records, at www.greyboy.com), the music proves spectacularly faithful to its inspiration, with a “live” recording aesthetic, slightly cheesy keyboard sounds patched up by Robert Walter, and the broad, hypoexpressive timbres Denson goes for in the tenor’s middle range. Media darlings Medeski, Martin & Wood get a lot of ink with their “thinking man’s” acid jazz, and their music has a few things going on under the surface. But the Greyboys wear their retrofitted hearts on their sleeves–which means you don’t have to strain nearly as hard to find something that moves your feet. With John Scofield trying out quieter projects and breaking in new bands, and Eddie Harris nearly a year in the grave, the Greyboy Allstars could well serve as the conscience of the 60s for the acid jazzers of the 90s. Friday, 10 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Eesha Williams.