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.