CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. - Although he was a founding member of the Greyboy Allstars and the leader of his own band, Robert Walter remained ambitious. So he moved to New Orleans, a town famous for its music scene and great keyboard players.
By the end of his first week in the Big Easy, Walter had his first gig with some of his heroes. He lived there more than a half-decade before moving to Southern California, where he has plenty of work in the film and television industry.
The New Orleans experience made Walter a better player.
"You played so often and with so many different people and the bands were constantly shifting," he said. "It was good to be forced to play with different players. You have to be able to figure out what you know together or maybe you have to follow along with someone.
"Just learning to interact with a lot of different musicians, everybody teaches you a little bit. That's partly why the players are so good down there I think. They are very adaptable and then they're constantly getting influence and inspiration from all these players. Every night was different."
The lifestyle also was different. It taught the San Diego native to relax.
"I had to get used to everybody being late all the time for everything," he said. "I was used to getting there super early for a gig in case anything goes wrong. There, it was just sort of ridiculous. I would stand around forever and people would show up five minutes before the gig. Nothing ever went wrong. It taught me to loosen up."
Walter began playing music when he was just 7 years old. He helped start the jazz and funk band Greyboy Allstars in 1993 with Karl Denson, Elgin Park, Chris Stillwell, Zak Najor and DJ Greyboy.
He formed Robert Walter's 20th Congress in the late 1990s and recorded albums "Money Shot" and "Giving Up the Ghost." Band members included Cochemea Gastelum (Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings), Stanton Moore (Galactic), Joe Russo (Furthur, Benevento, Russo Duo), George Sluppick (Mofro, Chris Robinson Brotherhood), Mike Fratantuno (Black-eyed Peas), Chuck Prada and Will Bernard.
He also recorded "There Goes the Neighborhood" with jazz-funk pioneers Harvey Mason, Chuck Rainey, Phil Upchurch and Red Holloway.
Recently he played on the Stanton Moore Trio's "Groove Alchemy" and Anders Osborne's "American Patchwork."
The Stanton Moore Trio - Moore, Bernard and Walter - played at the Crystal Bay Casino in 2010.
Walter has resurrected the 20th Congress and it plays a four-night tour beginning Wednesday, Oct. 10, in the Crown Room in a doubleheader with the Anders Osborne Band.
Gastelum plays sax, Stillwell is on bass and the new drummer is John Speice from Austin, Texas.
The Greyboy Allstars play about 20 shows a year but expect to play a lot more next year with the release of a new album, Walter said. A new album with the 20th Congress has been recorded but the mixing process is ongoing, he said.
Walter and former Greyboy Allstar Michael Andrews have made music for "Bridesmaids," "Bad Teacher," "Walk Hard," "Jeff Who lives at Home," "She's Out of Your League," "5 Year Engagement" and the title song for the Fox comedy "The New Girl."
"Studio is good for fine tuning things and crafting it and getting micro about your music and making everything perfect but I like the immediacy of playing live," Walter "That's my first love. (But) as I get older I like to be at home more."