Take a space age sounding name like Galactic, mix in musical influences from Mardi Gras Indians and Professor Longhair, add some great honest sounding organic jazz tunes and you gain some insight into the music of drummer Stanton Moore and the influences that infuse his tunes.
Moore combines a career as the drummer for Galactic with a burgeoning solo career that just saw him release his third project under his own name. The CD is simply titled Stanton Moore III. At the time of our conversation Moore was also working with Galactic on a new project.
"On this record, (Stanton Moore III) I wanted to get back to recording with all of the members playing at one time, whereas with Galactic’s recent recordings and especially with the one we are doing now, it is very production-oriented. It has a lot of overdubs and loops," says Moore.
With III, Moore returns to his musical roots. "On the first (solo) record it was pretty well all organic and I wanted to get back to a little bit of that," he says.
"I wanted a solid rhythm section through the whole record whereas before (on previous CDs), I have mixed it up a little bit. I wanted to focus more on my playing versus the production of the record," says Moore. The rhythm section is particularly noticeable on songs such as "Licorice" and "Big ‘Uns Get the Ball Rolling." Robert Walter (Hammond B3 organ) and guitarist Will Bernard accompany Moore on III. Walter (Robert Walter’s 20th Congress and the Greyboy Allstars) is phenomenal throughout the album and particularly noticeable on the funkadelic opening track "Poison Pushy." Bernard’s note bending and fretboard workout shines as he lays down some deep grooves for "Big ‘Uns Get the Ball Rolling."
A great call and response occurs between Walter’s organ and Moore’s Gretsch drum kit during "(Don’t Be Comin’ With No) Weak Sauce." Moore also puts his tom toms, snares and Bosphorus crash cymbals through a vigorous workout during a drum solo in "Big ‘Uns Get the Ball Rolling."
The 2003 Northwest Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year Skerik (tenor sax) and Mark Mullins (trombone) blow some sweet notes on "Chilcock." The former Seattle native, Skerik (now living in New York City) is best known for his work with Syncopated Taint Septet and Tuatura, while Mullins has worked with Harry Connick Jr. and Tori Amos.
Moore co-produced the album with Mike Napolitano. "I like working with him (Napolitano) because I trust him to get good tones. He gets tones that are not too pristine or too clean. He knows how to get good sound, but it still sounds raw and organic. That is what I was looking for and that’s what he brings to the table," says Moore.
"Sometimes you question yourself throughout the whole process, but with Mike it is very easy because you know that he is going to get everything sounding good and it is actually going to make it to the hard drive," Moore says laughing.
Moore describes "Water From An Ancient Well" as "a very moving song. I am happy with all the tunes on the record, but I really like that one in particular." The duo of Mullins and Skerik take you to the streets of New Orleans both before and after Katrina. The song is a beautiful piece that laments the many tragic stories following the storm and draws attention to as Moore says, "The sadness within that song (reflects) what is going on with New Orleans right now. It is a beautiful city but there is a lot of pain and a lot of sadness going on right now. The tune refers to the levees breaching and it was something that was waiting to happen for a long time. To me that song seems very relevant."
Relevancy is important to Moore. He is not shy about saying that in his opinion the current government administration has not done the kind of job that should be expected of them in terms of providing relief to the New Orleans area. He also realizes that his stature as a recording artist and performer give him a platform to share his views and that is an opportunity not enjoyed by many. "It is a balancing act for me. For one thing, this is something that we have discussed between ourselves. On one hand, we feel like we have an obligation to use any platform that we have to try and shed light on things. At the same time, we have to be careful because we feel that our audience comes to us to escape. The last thing our audience wants to do is come to our shows to listen to our music and be preached at or have us come off sounding like we are standing on a soapbox. We have to be somewhat careful with that so we try to get involved as much as we can playing for benefits and causes that we stand behind, without coming off as too preachy to our audience."
In the music that he records and performs, Moore borrows from the rhythms of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Indians. The original rhythms have been incorporated into Moore’s drumming as the beats roll off his Dunnett Titanium and Cravioto snares. Moore then provides me with a quick history lesson informing me that the Mardi Gras Indians really weren’t Native Americans but had their roots in Africa. During the period when slavery was prevalent they would perform their music in New Orleans’ Congress Square. The African rhythms became fused with European instruments and over time those same rhythms started being played on bass and snare drums. "It is a lot of what makes New Orleans’ drumming and music unique," says Moore.
Stir in the influences of the music from the Mardi Gras parade, which Moore started attending when he was just eight months old, combined with exposure to some great New Orleans musicians such as Dr. John and Professor Longhair, and the musical palette of Stanton Moore starts to emerge.
Although it may bring a smile to readers’ faces today, Moore is not the first drummer to admit he got his start early in life playing his mother’s pots, pans and Tupperware containers. For as long as he can remember, he aspired to be a drummer.
Unless you have been living on another planet, you will be aware that New Orleans has been rebuilding since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the fall of 2005. I posed the question to Moore whether or not he sees himself as part of a new wave of musicians and music originating from the Crescent City. He was reluctant to wear that mantle and instead opted for a more subtle perspective, "If people perceive us as being part of a new wave, then that’s cool."
Moore is grateful that while continuing to live in New Orleans, he and his bandmates are still able to find venues to perform in. "We have all been able to make a living playing instrumental music with a number of conglomerations and a number of different bands. I think that we are fortunate to have the opportunity to make improvisational instrumental music and make a living at it."
Some venues were lost as a result of the storm and subsequent flooding. "Fortunately a lot of the main places that we played before the storm are (still) there. The Maple Leaf and the D.B.A. (are still here). There are actually some new places such as the Chickie Wha Wha that was about to be opened when the storm hit. There are still a lot of gigs and we are still playing a lot. There are a few less gigs to play, but there are also a few less musicians (in New Orleans) to play them. It’s not an ideal situation no matter how you slice it, but the places we have played for years are still around so that’s good," says Moore.
When you listen to Stanton Moore III, like me, you will find it difficult to imagine a time when Stanton Moore won’t be in demand.