“(Late Night at the) Maple Leaf” from the album
Emphasis (on parenthesis)
“To me, playing with a trio like this is like driving a small sports car,” says New Orleans musician Stanton Moore. The Galactic timekeeper and drummer extraordinaire is due at the Pour House with his side project this Thursday. “Playing with Galactic with an emcee is more like driving a Mack truck. Both are fun, and I enjoy doing both very much, but it’s always fun to change it up.”
Born and raised in New Orleans, Moore grew up immersed in the jazz, funk, and blues of the Crescent City. By his late teens, he was already an accomplished, in-demand drummer and percussionist capable of playing anything from hard rock to be-bop.
He cofounded the highly-successful funk/jazz combo Galactic in the early ’90s with guitarist Jeff Raines, bassist Robert Mercurio, keyboardist Rich Vogel, and saxophonist Ben Ellman. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in music and business from Loyola University, Moore and the band released their first album, Coolin’ Off, and hit the road hard.
In 1998, Moore recorded his first solo album, All Kooked Out, with guitarist Charlie Hunter and saxophonist Skerik. He followed in 2001 with the solo release of Flyin’ the Koop.
Two years ago, the drummer hooked up with keyboardist Robert Walter and guitarist Will Bernard, two talented session players, to brainstorm, jam, and record. The drummer brought his own song ideas to the table, mixed them with Walters, and arranged an album’s worth of instrumentals.
“It’s groove-based music with instrumentalists who are adept at playing their instruments and really have a passion for what they’re doing,” Moore says. “It’s a lot of fun to listen to, really. That’s how I like to think of it. I don’t really like to label things too much. My album collection is alphabetical, regardless of genre — and I say ‘genre’ in quotes! People call us different things and the terms never bother me. At least they’re talking about us. For years, many writers have called Galactic a jam band, which, to me refers more to the business model.”
The trio’s impressive debut, III, came out on the Telcarc label in mid-2006. Emphasis (on parenthesis), features this same lineup — with no special session guests. From the Zepplified riffs of “(Proper) Gander” and “(Who Ate the) Layer Cake” to the super-sophisticated syncopation of the funky tracks “Thanks (Again)” and “(Sifting Through the) African Diaspora,” they sound like a trio that’s been gigging constantly together for two decades.
The music on Emphasis certainly doesn’t sound scattered or chaotic. The trio jumps from groove to groove, shifting in style and tempo along the way.
“Robert and I got together a few weeks before the session,” Moore says of the new album. “We’d go in and out of a few grooves I was working on. He’d add ideas, and then we’d show them to Will and flesh it out together. After being on the road for a good amount of time, we just have become very comfortable with each other. We can write fairly swiftly. Whereas, with the first trio record, a lot of it was Robert coming in with a fleshed-out tune, this time it was much more of a collective effort, and it worked out well.”
The album title stems from Moore’s recurring habit of slipping parenthetical phrases into just about every song he writes. Every track title includes parentheses. “When we were working on the last Galactic record, the guys were commenting on how I tend to do that,” he says. “When you’re writing instrumental music, it helps to add a little something to get the song and its title to stick in listeners’ minds.”
Influenced heavily by such funky, legendary timekeepers as Earl Palmer, Bernard Purdie, Billy Cobham, Clyde Stubblefield, and jazz greats Elvin Jones and Art Blakey, Moore constantly expands his musical vocabulary and experiments with new rhythms and patterns. His technical skill, keen ear, and fluid style allow him to adjust in different situations.
“I always try to push myself by picking out stuff that I like,” he says. “The goal on your instrument is to be able to play what you like quickly. If I hear something I like, I try to come up with 20 different variations on it. By doing that for so long, it’s become more fluid. Like, I know if I learn this, I can do these 10 things with it, right off the bat. That comes in handy during sessions and gigs.”
With his main band Galactic, Moore earned a reputation for his top-notch chops, his powerful drumming style, and his open-minded bandleader abilities. In recent years, he collaborated on the side with a wide variety of players.
“With this band, everyone has played with a lot of different people and played a lot of different types of music,” Moore adds. “We all have a lot of experience, yet we’re all very similar in the types of music we really like. There’s a lot of common ground and also a lot of influences that we can bring in. There are three directions that it goes into, where someone can pull it out a little bit from the comfort zone in one way or another. It’s cool. It depends on who’s steering at any given moment.”