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Robert Walter and his 20th Congress are ambassadors of acid jazz

By DAN ENGLER

Missoula's music scene gets a temporary organ transplant of sorts this Saturday, when Robert Walter brings his 20th Congress to town. Walter, more widely known for his boogaloo organ stylings with the Greyboy Allstars, is now touring to promote his Congress, a new sideline project, as well as his latest album Spirit of '70.

Hailing from San Diego, the 28-year-old Walter studied piano and classical harmony at the School of Creative and Performing Arts, but he found his niche in jazz. "I played in a lot of blues bands," says Walter, "I was into black music in general."

With the Allstars, Walter has played all over the U.S. and Europe, sharing the stage with such jazz and funk heavyweights as Fred Wesley, who played horns with James Brown and is featured on the Allstars' West Coast Boogaloo, and Miles Davis' sidekick Gary Bartz, who appears on Spirit of '70.

A key player in the West Coast's revival of the late '60s soul-jazz scene, Walter's music is dominated by a troika of soul, funk, and boogaloo, but his influences run the gamut from Mingus to Kraftwerk. He finds an ear not only with jazz and funk aficionados, but with fans of hip-hop and dance music as well.

Spirit of '70 is a nine-track tribute to a forgotten era of rug-cutting instrumental jazz-jazz written for the dancehall, not the lounge. '70 treats the listener to an earful of boogaloo quirk and mahogany-paneled moog chops, while numbers like "Corry's Snail and Slug Death" reminisce over the quizzical melodies of '70s sitcom jingles. Stylized covers of "Little Miss Lover" by Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis' "Jan Jan" round out the album.

Walter's 20th Congress, so named for the 20th Congress of the Soviets (his wife's a Russian history buff), was launched as part of the Allstars' Sidecar Project, which allows the members of the Allstars, who have recorded numerous solo albums over the last five years, to tour separately for a while. The resulting sound of Congress will include drums, bass and guitar, with Walter himself splitting his time between his Fender Rhodes and Hammond Organ.

Those attending the show are well-advised to wear their dancing shoes and be prepared for a boogie-inducing set list. "We'll play a couple songs off Spirit of '70, some songs I wrote for the Greyboy Allstars, some rare funk 45s and some classic jazz tunes," says Walter. His performance will be both fresh and educational in a town where eternal bar-funk jams are the only answer to bona fide soul.

Despite having run into some bad weather, the upbeat Walter says, the tour has been great thus far, and the Congress has been well-received. And he's excited to play his first-ever gig in Missoula. In addition to promoting Spirit of '70, by the way, Walter and his Congress have recorded a four-song EP titled Health and Fitness, which he hopes will be ready by the time they get here.

Robert Walter's 20th Congress plays Saturday, February 13 at 9:30 p.m. at Sean Kelly's. Cover is $5 at the door.

The art of Brad Rude charts some unfamiliar territory

By BLAKE de PASTINO

It's not hard-especially in these parts-to find works of art that carry with them a strong sense of place. It can be more of a challenge, though, to find ones that go beyond that. They're there; you just have to search for them. Among all the glory-streaked sunsets and precious wildlife oils, there are pieces of powerful and prolonging art that root themselves in a certain environment-a stretch of landscape, say, or a whole region-but don't stop there. One place you might want to look for such long-ranging yet local art is the Art Museum of Missoula, where Brad Rude's exhibition of bronzes and drawings, Original Nature, is on view for just two more weeks.

It's with pride that local folks will tell you that Brad Rude is from Montana originally, having found his bones in Lewistown and, later, Alaska. And surely, the effects of growing up in Big Sky Country are not lost on his work-the constant wildlife imagery, the heroic materials, the scope in his sculptures reaching such size that you can only gulp them down one eyeful at a time. But it doesn't take you long to realize that there's more to Rude's work than a sense of place-more than just a love of nature, or Montana, or the West. There's a lot else going on here-conflict, for example, and allegory, and even a dash or two of absurdity. This is where his art takes off.

“The Occurence,” cast bronze, 1996.


Take "Expedition II," the piece that greets you as you enter the show. It's a life-size doe cast in bronze, the surface of its flesh carved with haunting images-an ox's head, a mountain, marks that look like the cuneiform prints of some ancient civilization. And then-get this-out of its flanks sticks a pulley, and attached to it, a fan belt, which stretches down to wheels mounted beneath the beast's feet. Both sublime and disturbing, it's the kind of image that you'll find throughout the show. And it's the symbol of a conflict that any Westerner can understand-machinery versus nature.

Compare that to another piece, "The Occurrence," by no means an explicitly Western work of art, but one that runs along the same lines. Made entirely out of bronze, the scene depicts a rhino straining up a wooden ramp; with his head he's trying to nudge a giant boulder into balance on a bamboo pole. It seems like a scene you'd find in some animal hell-like Sisyphus on four legs-but it brings a lot to mind. The perilous balance of nature. The folly of finding order. The connectedness of the elements. And on and on and on.

Of course, you can find in these pieces anything you want. But don't be surprised if you find yourself in some unfamiliar territory. Brad Rude's work is the rare kind of art that sets up its own boundaries, and then goes beyond them.

Original Nature closes with a reception and artist's talk, Friday, February 26 from 5 to 8 p.m. An artist's tour for kids will be held Saturday, February 27 at 11 a.m. Call 728-0447.


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