“Wally is able to sound like a drummer and a percussionist at the same time. Add blistering chops and a penchant for playing unusual patterns to the mix, and you have only a small idea of what this man can do.”
If you ever wondered why HOF/epic band Chicago chose Walfredo “Wally” Reyes, Jr. as their percussionist, then I have the answer for you and it’s not found in some far away place; instead, it can be found in the nearby Wally World. Wally World is the debut solo record from Wally Reyes, Jr., and it is a work of art to say the least. Premised on the interesting chronicling of Wally’s worldwide travels the album tracks Wally’s various feelings and grooves that he has picked up as an experienced traveler and musician in such far away places as Venezuela, Brazil, Africa, the Caribbean, New Orleans, and Asia. On Wally World this Cuban born master drummer/percussionist literally has the “world” on display as he effortlessly segways between cultures, genres, time signatures, feels, grooves, and even instruments.
“Walfredo Reyes is extremely and supremely insightful with the joy of creating music from the heart of color and rhythm. He and his father are pillars in American music and I am very grateful for their spirits.”
Editor’s Note: Wally is an extremely accomplished artist who has worked with the likes of Marilyn McCoo, Ben Vereen, Lindsey Buckingham, Paul Anka, Santana, Richard Marx, Robbie Robertson, Steve Winwood (Traffic), Jackson Browne, Joe Sample (Jazz Crusaders), the late Debbie Reynolds, and, Neal Schon (Journey)…to name a few. Add Chicago to the list and you have the resume of a lifetime.
Sporting 9 tracks, Wally World is a smorgasbord of percussive samplings and styles that is second to none. Produced by Wally himself and mastered by Chicago guitarist Keith Howland, the record features wonderful performances by Wally and a team of other talented musicians including Wally’s own daughter, Lilliana de los Reyes. (Wally also participated in the composition of each track on the record and in fact several were written with Wally’s late musical partner, Roger Edward Burn). Here’s the track listing:
1) Funky Arequita (7:36)
2) Abakuando (8:02)
3) Maracatu (4:48)
4) Zouk Du Jour (5:00)
5) Afrochina Vision (5:32)
6) Asi Es La Vida (4:20)
7) Espiritual (6:21)
8) Deja Que el Alma Corra (5:30)
9) Echoes Of India (4:35)
Despite being largely instrumental, Wally World is sure to make any listener smile and get the feet tapping right away. Funky Arequita quickly gets the party started with some pretty mesmerizing and intricate cross-sticking patterns as Wally immediately establishes that he is a master of not just percussion but also the drums (as if his days in Santana did not prove that). Abakuando, Track 2 on the record, follows and it offers a very different dynamic in tempo, time, and space as Wally explores and demonstrates the proper use of odd time signatures. In this track Wally effortlessly alternates between being ahead of, behind, and, on the beat; he has the ability to toy with rhythms like a kite toys with the wind. The best part of Wally’s performance on Abakuando is that this difficult timekeeping exercise actually works and it works really well. Michael Thompson also adds some exceptional guitar work on this track.
The next track, Maracatu, besides being a catchy tune in and of itself, gives the listener the interesting perspective of hearing Wally interact–as a drummer–with fantastic percussion provided by Kevin Ricard. Wally’s command of his snare technique and dynamics are also apparent on this tune. Maracatu, an Afro-Brazilian genre based composition, also offers Alphonso Johnson performing some stellar bass work. Also worthy of special mention are the magnificent vocals of Katia Moraes who infectiously draws the listener in with her beautiful use of the Brazilian (Portuguese) language. This enchanting songstress captures the feel of Brazil flawlessly.
In fact, check out this sample of Maracatu below.
“Simply put, Track 8, called Deja Que el Alma Corra, can be summed up like this. It explains why Chicago or any other major/national act would want Wally as their percussionist.”
Track 4, Zouk du Jour, takes the listener to the Caribbean and this composition features some stellar percussion work by Richie Gajate Garcia. Here’s a sample of Garcia’s marvelous work on Zouk du Jour.
Afrochina Vision, the next track on the record, takes the listener to far away lands in Asia and it showcases Wally’s journey into Asian influence and culture. The track is really interesting and in it Wally offers some unique sounds from both himself and his band. Track 6, entitled Asi Es La Vida (meaning “That’s Life”), has a touch of Santana influence to it and it is also coupled with some solid Latin influences. Keith Howland’s guitar work on this track is outstanding and Wally’s daughter, Lilliana, pairs with JP Castillo to provide catchy and impeccable vocals.
Track 7, entitled Espiritual (relating to “spirituality”), features the magnificent piano work of lou Pardini however, what is also clear from this track is that Wally is a master of Samba/Latin-Jazz grooves. Also prominent on this track is the percussion work of Kevin Ricard which features some nice Agogo bell patterns. Track 8, Deja Que el Alma Corra, is an explosive (mucho caliente!) Cuban influenced piece that again features nice vocal work from Wally’s daughter, Lilliana, as she teams up with the fabulous vocalist Willito Otero. Together, this vocal duo are contagious….highly. Bassist Ricky Encarnacion rounds out the track with masterful slap patterns that are second to none.
Also featured on this track is some intricate high-hat work by Wally. In fact, it is safe to say around 4:00 on this tune Wally breaks into some brilliant syncopated fills over the rhythm and melody which is frankly, one of my favorite segments on the record and it shows a master of his craft at work. In fact, to hear what I am talking about check out Wally’s drumming on this segment from Deja Que el Alma Corra:
Rounding out this terrific album is Track 9 which is an interesting tune called Echoes Of India. This track presents some outstanding work by guitarist Neale Heywood as well as keyboardist Joey Navarro. However, also prominent is Wally laying back and letting the band and melody breathe. A critical tool in the arsenal of any drummer–which Wally talks about–is knowing when (and how) to use open space in your playing and here Wally shows how that discipline can really make a song work.
In sum, Wally World is a terrific body of work assembled by a musician whose resume and talents (on both drums and percussion) are brilliant. What I particularly liked about the record was its variety of genres, styles, grooves, and feels. No two songs were the same and when Wally said he wanted to (musically) tour the world I did not know that he (literally) meant that. I also like the fact that here Wally set out to surround himself with terrific musicians who were perfectly cast for the compositions that they performed on. In fact, despite being a master percussionist himself Wally chose to invite other very talented percussionists to join him. The idea of creating a percussion all-star team is intriguing and effective here and the listener is left with many different arrays of interpretation and style to consider. The commune of percussion on this record is fantastic and moving. Finally, besides being able to certainly play and perform, with this record Wally shows that he can also arrange too and that encompasses both material and musicians alike.
I also have to say something about Wally’s drum sounds on this record. Wally’s DW Drums are rich in tone and full in sound and they add a lot to the record without being overbearing. I applaud Wally for choosing DW and DW for endorsing Wally.
If I found a flaw in this record it was that our trip around the “world” was too short. I wanted to travel some more and I sincerely hope that this traveler has more journeys in store for us in the near future. This sure was a fun expedition and I can’t wait to do it again. By all means check out Wally World and then simply sit back and enjoy your trip. I promise it will be a great one.
Ken “K Bo” Biedzynski, Editor