If I had to describe Wally Reyes, Jr. (Chicago’s new drummer) in a word it would be “mercury.” Wally, a vibrant personality with exceptional talent, is comparable to the silver colored element in that both are unpredictable, unable to be contained, and, brilliant in their appearance and performance. With Wally’s latest album, entitled Jamming At The Baked Potato, he has again proven that you never know where this artist will go or end up but one thing is for sure; the end result will be unpredictable but always excellent.

Editor’s Note: For those of you not familiar with The Baked Potato this venue is located in Studio City, California. The Potato opened in 1970 and it is perhaps Los Angeles’ most prominent jazz club. As far as venues go, it is comparable–in terms of significance–to The Stone Pony located in Asbury Park, New Jersey, which spawned icon Bruce Springsteen.

On Jamming Wally has assembled an outstanding cast of colleagues to join him at The Potato as they explore seven cover tracks and give them their own Wally World spin as only they could. Here’s the track listing:

  1. Nothing Can Come Between Us (6:37)
  2. El Matador/The Bed’s Too Big Without You (7:26)
  3. Slipping Into Darkness/Get Up, Stand Up (7:09)
  4. The Sauce (14:51)
  5. Use Me (7:07)
  6. Baby Brother/La Culebra (9:48)
  7. Since I’ve Been Loving You (10:22)

I myself expected exceptional playing particularly from the drummer but nothing prepared me for Wally World’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s blues classic Since I’ve Been Loving You and that was just the start of it. Like Wally World’s self-titled debut album which featured a variety of genres Jamming is a fantastic and meandering journey through the soul of Bill Wither’s Use Me to the reggae feel of The Police’s The Bed’s Too Big Without You, to the R&B classicality of War’s Me And Baby Brother and everything in between. All the renditions on this album are tasteful, faithful to the original tracks, but very innovative–Wally World style that is. As to Wally himself, the drumming work on this record is a lesson on how to play drums with a band over many, many genres with feel. I really liked what Wally did on this record and from hearing his playing one can easily understand why Chicago chose him as their new drummer. He knows how to play with a band which sometimes gets lost on players, even exceptional ones. I would have to say that Wally is a drummer’s drummer. On this record he represents the instrument about as good as anybody could.

In fact, here’s a small sample of what I am talking about:

Since this is a live recording I also feel compelled to mention the sound quality on this album which frankly, I thought was a studio album at first. Yes, it sounds that good. The mix is terrific and the sound is complete and very satisfying to the listener. At least as far as it pertains to Wally it is worth mentioning that he plays DW Drums and on this record they again prove why they are some of the best drums in the business. I was also impressed with the crispness of Wally’s Sabian Cymbals on this record as they cut through nicely but they were not overbearing.

Wally and his new DW kit to open his tenure as the drummer for HOF band Chicago

In the end, I was really pleased with this record and I found it to be a departure from what Wally did on his debut album which is impressive because of the diversity between the two records. Jamming is more funk/soul/rock based and on this record you hear a different side of Wally and just when you thought Mr. Reyes was maxed out with his selection as the timekeeper for Chicago he has again outdone himself. I think the album is aptly entitled “Jamming” because that is what it really is; a monster jam on classic tunes with monster musicians led by Wally himself. My only regret with this record is that I did not see it performed live. Otherwise, I have no complaints and I am again enjoying my stay in Wally World. I would recommend you get there yourself as there is a lot to listen to and it’s all good–really good.

Ken “K Bo” Biedzynski, Editor