Song Roulette: Random Tracks From Giant Stepper Robert Kerley

Jessica Cassyle Carr
4 min read
Robert Kerley
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Once upon a time, Robert Kerley was the keyboard player for ska band Giant Steps. The Albuquerque native relocated to Lawrence, Kan., where he still resides, playing in a few bands, including a ska group called Checkered Beat. On Dec. 29, he’s reuniting with Giant Steps for a show at the Launchpad. In anticipation of that reunion, we asked Kerley to put his digital music library on shuffle. “I promise this is how the list came out!” he says. “The sixth song was actually from another band of mine—I have 30 gigs of music on my Zune and probably less than 1 percent is my own stuff.”

Song Roulette

1) “Squish” • Giant Steps • Feel The Thunder

“We had played this song live for quite a while before it got recorded. You can hear the surf influence that Otto has in his guitar playing. Did you know he plays Hendrix style (lefty and upside down)? It’s true. A fun ditty useful for doing chores, surfing and perhaps dancing—if you’re into that sort of thing.”

Song Roulette

2) “Lover Man” • Yusef Lateef • Prayer to the East

“One time Giant Steps got to open for The Selecter and I told them how I was into jazz and they all groaned. But I’d venture to guess a fair amount of U.S. ska musicians are like myself in that respect. I got this album to listen to Hugh Lawson’s piano as much as I did for Lateef’s playing. This is one of those great small group late ’50s / early ’60s recordings where both the playing and the recording were excellent. Somewhat ironically, Pauline Black (of The Selecter) did a Billie Holiday tribute tour in 2007.”

Song Roulette

3) “Masquerade” • Wyclef Jean • The Mix Show

“I like this song and I like a lot of rap. I like the music with the African roots. Just like Q-Tip says: It reminds me of bebop. Wyclef definitely knows how to put the groove in his music—this one has a sweet, reggae-style guitar skank.”

Song Roulette

4) “Sharp Funky Mama” • Giant Steps • Feel The Thunder

“I swear by the Most High that I didn’t cheat on this list! Good ol’ stochasticity, I can always count on you! I actually wrote this song here in Lawrence, Kan. I graduated, got married and moved within a two-week period right before Giant Steps’ first album came out (sorry guys!). The chord changes are kind of Ray Charles style and the situation is made up—the title had a good ring to it. The guys were kind enough to give it a listen and put it on Feel The Thunder even though I wasn’t in the band at that point. I think they did a swell job.”

Song Roulette

5) “IMC” • Spank Rock • YoYoYoYoYo

“Some crazy Philly-style hip-hop right here, ‘yo.’ This is what I listen to when I want to go faster. Hard driving beats, old-school samples and provocative (nasty, more like it) lyrics. There’s a lot of experimentation here, which can either get tedious or be groundbreaking. I think this tune does a good job of keeping the groove on while exploring into some uncharted territories. Yo.”

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