New Orleans drummer Stanton Moore is a shrewd master of funkified, rhythmic grooves, and he leaves nothing in the shed on "Flyin’ the Koop."
Moore’s day job is a regular stint with his "steamroller funk" band, Galactic, but he aimed to expand that musical vision with "Flyin’ the Koop," his second solo effort. And he succeeds by ripping through with one powerful groove exploration after another. Because with Moore, the groove is what it’s all about. It doesn’t hurt that Moore’s supporting cast is equally fortified with funky, experimental roots: Bassist Chris Wood (Medeski Martin & Wood), saxophonist Karl Denson, saxophonist Skerik and guitarist Brian Seeger.
That combination results in an album that scrapes the greasiest patterns from the pan, leaving no escape from listener toe-tapping and groove-shakin’. Make no mistake: this is the work of an artist who seeks to conquer unique approaches to the groove and then opens ample space for his supporting cast to improvise and flourish.
While starting modestly with the steady-pulsing "Tang the Hump," Moore changes pace into "Fallin’ Off the Floor," a tom-and-rim groove that bellies up to Woods’ sliding bass line, Denson’s flute and rhythmic vocal chants from the Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indians.
"Launcho Diablo" is a raunchy funk-fest that combines interesting flute and sax interplay and also features a screeching Seeger guitar solo. "Magnolia Triangle" is the closest thing to traditional jazz on the album and has intricate, bopish drum play, leading bass lines, and fortified, screaming sax from Skerik. The jaunty, sly bounce of "Hunch" could have worked well for the Average White Band.
Within the boundaries of these pieces, Moore displays power, range and well-placed syncopation. But there’s also deft touch, with an innate sense of rhythmic and tonal voicing, as evident on "Prairie Sunset" and the New Orleans drum march of "Amy’s Lament."
On "Flyin’ the Koop," Moore and company have delivered an interesting variety of groove-based pieces, grounded in the New Orleans tradition. But their fresh, funky ideas take listeners on a smokin’ ride.