Stanton Moore is widely known as the driving funk engine for Galactic and Dragon Smoke as well as the slinky lubricant in his organ trio with Robert Walter and Will Bernard, and a controlled mayhem maker with Garage-A-Trois, but his jazz side is something known only to New Orleans locals. Moore rectifies this blank spot for the larger listening public with his utterly winning new album Conversations (released April 15 on DI fave Royal Potato Family), where he shows off his subtle side with pianist David Torkanowsky and bassist James Singleton. The title is aptly chosen as the trio embodies the core charms of the jazz piano trio, where one is allowed to eavesdrop on the intricate, empathetic interplay of three utter pros weaving through a perfectly chosen song cycle.
Conversations slots in nicely between the Ahmad Jamal Trio’s The Awakening and Ellington-Mingus-Roach’s Money Jungle, dense but flowing playing applied to material with clear personal connection for the musicians. While chops abound, it’s what the three weave together that’s most compelling about Moore’s first foray into straight jazz. Yes, Torkanowsky plays with the versatility of John Hicks and the homespun sophistication of Erroll Garner, and Singleton is both a visceral presence and a spinner of terrific, bowed bass elegance in the vein of the great Scott LaFaro, but it’s what happens when you put them with one of the most focused, potent drummers of his generation that really pricks up one’s ears. And it must be noted, Moore is simply stunning throughout, a creature of pure groove but this time with shades of Elvin Jones and Philly Joe Jones. There is so much communication happening in these pieces, including a good deal of listening and laying back in ways that elevate the compositions and what the other players are doing.
New Orleans, understandably, looms large on this album, which came about after the trio woodsheded for a year-and-a-half Tuesday residency at Snug Harbor. The city also surfaces in the song selection, all except one piece written by New Orleans composers including the trio themselves. However, this is no Mardi Gras shindig but a happy reminder of the richly diverse jazz traditions afoot in New Orleans, a river source for so much jazz that emerged elsewhere, something Moore and his compatriots highlight in unforced ways throughout Conversations. This is an album to lean into and luxuriate in, a fresh angle on a player beloved by jam and festival fans, and a bang-up showcase for Singleton and Torkanowsky, who both merit much further inspection for any serious jazz head.
Here’s what Stanton had to say in the Impound’s drummer survey.
- Favorite part of a standard trap drum kit – bass drum, floor tom, snare drum, tom-toms or cymbals?
- I love the whole kit, but I’m probably partial to the snare. You can get so much out of it – buzz rolls, rim shots, snares on, snares off, back beats, rudiments. You can play it with brushes, mallets, your hands, play it upside down. The possibilities of sound and texture that you can get out of the snare is endless.
- Tastiest drummer ever? Tastiest drummer today?
- Ever? Probably Papa Jo Jones. So slick and regal. Today? Maybe Brian Blade, he sounds great playing anything. He often plays a lot of ideas, but his playing always fits the music and is always very musical and tasteful.
- A drum solo I never get tired of listening to is…
- Elvin Jones’ solo on Wayne Shorter’s “Black Nile”. [LISTEN]
- Preferred brand of drums? Why?
- Gretsch. They’re classic, they have an identifiable sound, and they just sound the best.
- John Bonham, Art Blakey or Charlie Watts – which one gives you the biggest drum boner? What makes them SO sweet?
- While I’ve been influenced by Art and Charlie, Bonham is one of my top three faves of all time. The other two are Elvin Jones and Zigaboo Modeliste. That’s my personal “Holy Trinity”. You can pretty much say it all with those three right there.
- One lesser known drummer folks should check out is…
- I’ve got a few…
I’m always singing the praises of James Black. Quite possibly the greatest drummer/composer to come out of New Orleans, He was terrifyingly funky, but considered himself more of a jazz drummer and was one of the all time greats.
Historically? In a jazz context, Al Harewood. I took a couple of lessons from jazz great Kenny Washington and he hipped me to Al. Always super tasteful and super swinging. I was in a coffee shop earlier today and a few tracks came on and I thought, “This is swingin’! Who is this!?” I Shazammed three of the tracks and they were all Al Harewood.
In a funk context, Gaylord Birch. He played with tons of people including the Pointer Sisters and was super funky and tasteful. [Editor’s Note: Birch’s drumming on “Yes We Can Can” is definitive funk. Check out this performance to see what we mean, including a tasty drum solo at the three-minute mark.]
Today? Julian Addison He plays around New Orleans and plays with Pat Casey and the New Sound at the Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street on Sunday nights. He’s really inventive and has a really unique approach to the instrument. He plays things that will boggle your mind!
- What aspect of being a drummer always makes you happy?
- Hittin’ them and making people feel good!
Name: Stanton Moore
Band(s): Galactic, Garage-a-Trois, Dragon Smoke, M$M’s, Midnite Disturbers, Stanton Moore Trio, Frequinox