Walter Parks "The Ballet de Marais"

by Rick Grant
For the past 10 years, Walter Parks has toured globally as Richie Havens’ lead guitarist. Last year, Richie, who turned 70, decided to take some time off the road to tend to some health issues. This gave Walter an opportunity to go full-time with his fabulous blues band called Swamp Cabbage, now featuring studio magnate Jimmy DeVito on bass.
Swamp Cabbage is a raw fusion of blues and swamp funk. Walter’s voice sounds like it comes from deep in the murky depths of a bayou swamp. His sound is reminiscent of Tom Waits–gravelly, with a shot of Jack Daniels.
To get an update on Walter’s present-day career, I called him.
WP: Well, I’ve been off the road for almost a year since Richie (Havens) decided to take some time off. I lost my bass player for Swamp Cabbage, but since I’ve recorded all my SC material at Jimmy DeVito’s studio, I asked him to join us on bass. And it’s been working out really well. So Swamp Cabbage is back on the road with new vigor. We still have the same drummer, Jagoda. The band is thriving and we are picking up gigs everywhere.
EU: Tell me about your upcoming gigs in North Florida.
WP: I’m really excited about playing with the Florida Ballet in a presentation we call “The Ballet de Marais” (translation: “Swamp Ballet”) Saturday, October 1, at the Florida Ballet Studio at 8 pm. This has been a dream of mine to have my work choreographed. I will be playing live, with Jagoda on drums and Jimmy DeVito on bass. Then I’ll be playing solo—songs from my solo CD. (The Ballet Studio is downtown, across the street from the Armory.)
On October 8, we’ll be playing Café Eleven in St. Augustine. More exciting news: I signed with Judy Collins’ record company, Wildflower, for my upcoming solo album. I met her through Richie’s circle of friends. After we play our gigs in North Florida, Savannah, Georgia, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, then we will travel to Spain for an extensive tour.
It was great to reconnect with Walter. We’ve been friends for many moons. Over the years, I’ve covered most of Walter’s band incarnations here in Jacksonville. And I’m a fan of Swamp Cabbage’s funk-a-swamp blues fusion. Play on, brother.
Saturday, October 1; 7pm reception, 8pm concert
The Florida Ballet and Walter Parks present “The Ballet de Marais”
Florida Ballet Studio
300 East State St., Suite E (across from Armory)
Saturday, October 8; 8:30 pm
Swamp Cabbage (with Walter Parks, Jim Devito and Jagoda)
Cafe 11
501 A1A Beach Blvd., St. Augustine