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Greg Schatz: Amoebotics
by George Graham
(Independent release as broadcast on WVIA-FM 7/31/2018)
There is a kind of sub-genre, of perhaps a sub-genre, of witty or sardonic piano-playing singer-songwriters. Perhaps best known is Randy Newman, but there are others going back to the great satirist Tom Lehrer, and people like Ben Sidran, Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, and some others who write more serious songs much of the time, along with their humorous ones, like Bob Malone. This week we have another clever and amusing pianist songwriter, Greg Schatz, who has just released a new recording called Amoebotics.
Greg Schatz has been performing since his teens, when he started doing original music in Upstate New York. He moved to New Orleans in 1995 to play accordion in a group called The Big Mess Blues Band. Then he switched to acoustic bass, playing with Jeremy Lyons and the Deltabilly Boys. In 1999, he started performing with his own band called Schatzy, releasing three albums. Amoebotics is Schatz’s seventh release. On it he performs with musicians he has worked with since 1999, including David Stover on bass, Paul Santopadre on drums and Akex McMurray on guitar. They are also joined by a number of New Orleans players from groups like St. Paul and the Broken Bones, The Iguanas and the Squirrel Nut Zippers.
The album features Schatz’ songs that can take some of the fears people might have from romantic rejection to being replaced by automation to bizarre illness, and has given them a kind of wry spin, in a setting that is in keeping with the album’s quirky but often amusing outlook. An interesting aspect of the album is the grouping of triads of songs, which take a subject matter and address it two different ways consecutively, including, for example, from the viewpoint of a nasty brain-eating parasite, then follow that with an instrumental piece inspired by the subject.
Opening is a track called Not Even Close with a good bluesy arrangement. It’s a kind of self-effacing love song, and a good example of the Schatz’ wit as a songwriter. <<>>
The fear by many of being replaced in one’s job by a robot, is addressed in one of the albums groups of two consecutive songs on the same subject. The first is I’m Building a Robot about the being the person to build the robot which would take one’s job of … building robots. <<>>
The ensuing song follows up on what happens when those robots build the robots that take the jobs. It’s called Machines Making Machines. It takes an appropriately quirky rock direction. <<>>
The following piece could also be part of the same concept. It’s an instrumental called Mechanism, and has a kind of stereotypical sci-fi electronic sound. <<>>
The other half of the album’s title Amoebotics is represented by the next batch of tunes. The Amoeba is a song that on a subject one does not often hear about set to music, a brain-eating parasitic amoeba. One wonders if the song came out of personal experience. <<>>
That is followed by a composition called All I Do Is Ooze written from the perspective of that amoeba, who is just minding its business doing what it does, which includes oozing around. <<>>
Like the sequence of song about robots, this trilogy ends with another instrumental piece called Protoplasm. It’s a somewhat quirky, vaguely jazz-influenced arrangement. <<>>
Amoebotics the new album by New Orleans-based singer-songwriter-pianist Greg Schatz, his seventh under his own name, is a collection of clever, sometimes quirky songs often written from a sardonic viewpoint. He takes a different spin lyrically on some of his songs, and it’s also interesting that he has two triads of songs about the two subjects that are fused together in the album’s title amoebas and robots, and the danger they pose. The backing band is first rate and the arrangements appropriately vary to accommodate the different songs.
Our grade for sound quality is about an A-minus. The recording is generally well-mixed, and the sound is reasonably clean. It might not have the sonic sheen of some audiophile recordings, but it’s quite respectable.
Greg Schatz’s new release is a fun album that carries on the tradition of piano-playing musical wags, and provides his own spin to the genre.
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