Drummer Stanton Moore Emphasizes His Trio on New Recording
Stanton Moore has proven many times over that he’ll try just about anything. As the co-founder of the “steamroller funk” band Galactic, a recurring member of the tongue-in-cheek avant-funk ensemble known as Garage a Trois, engineer of a rapidly accelerating solo career, and session player for artists as diverse as Irma Thomas, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Corrosion of Conformity and Street Sweeper (a forthcoming project with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Boots Riley of The Coup), this drum virtuoso from the bent-but-unbroken music mecca known as New Orleans maintains a rhythmic arsenal that embraces jazz, funk, R&B, pop, hard rock and so much more.
When Moore joined the Telarc roster with the September 2006 release of III – his third solo recording – he brought with him some high-caliber session players, including keyboardist Robert Walter and guitarist Will Bernard. At the time, Moore and company were a loosely knit collective – each writing his own songs, each getting a feel for the others’ musical sensibilities. But in the year-and-a-half since III, after settling into a comfortable groove amid scores of live gigs and exploratory forays, Moore, Walter and Bernard have become something more than just a random mix of musicians.
Emphasis (on parenthesis), the followup to III, features this same threesome in a much different creative place. It’s clear from the eleven tracks that the trio has achieved a level of cohesion and confidence that no longer requires assistance from any other session guests.
“In the past year, I started to think, ‘Well, we’re really developing some momentum, and we’re seeing more and more people coming to our shows,’” Moore explains. “So when it came time to do another record, I had already known for a while that I wanted to build on the momentum of this band – three musicians who were becoming a unit unto themselves – and I wanted to get a little more adventurous with the music itself.”
The quirky album title stems from Moore’s recurring habit of slipping parenthetical phrases into just about every song he writes. “When we were working on the last Galactic record, the guys were commenting on how I tend to do that,” he recalls. “When you’re writing instrumental music, I think it helps to add a little something to get the song and its title to stick in listeners minds.”
Emphasis (on parenthesis) is full of songs that stick. The set opens with the highly expressive “(late night at the) Maple Leaf,” a tune loosely based on an instrumental improvisation that emerged during a gig that Moore and Walter played with bassist George Porter at the famed New Orleans club. “Robert remembered some of the stuff that we improvised – in particular, some of the chord structures that George was messing with at the time. Over time, Robert and I fleshed it out into more of a song.”
Tracks like “(proper) Gander” and “(who ate the) Layer Cake?” are more riff-based and driving. “Those songs come from a heavier groove,” says Moore. “We all listen to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, so tunes like these lean more toward our riff-rock roots.”
“Wissions (of Vu)” came about as the result of an interesting composing process. Moore and his trio donned headphones in the studio and improvised to the sounds of a favorite track by Wu Tang Clan. “The idea was to come up with parts to a song that would be assembled later,” says Moore. “Once I was in the mix-down process, I just stripped away the track we were all listening to and started pulling out the parts that each of us played that I liked. Then I composed all the pieces into an actual song.”
“(I have) Super Strength” was built around the exuberant exclamation of Walter’s four-year-old son. “While Robert was demo-ing some ideas, his son was running around the house like a superhero,” Moore explains. “He kept yelling, ‘I have super strength!’ It made it on the tape, and we all thought it sounded pretty funny. I had Robert loop his son’s voice, and then we improvised against that.”
This sense of experimentation and exploration has always been the cornerstone of Moore’s music, no matter who he’s playing with or in what context. But Emphasis (on parenthesis) never loses its connection to its basic three-man core.
“With this record, I went into the process with a lot more experience, and also with a lot more confidence,” he says. “By just having these three guys in the studio, we could really do whatever we wanted. We could play things with loops in it, we could play things that were in 5/4, we could improvise, whatever. But the thread that holds the entire album together is the fact that it’s the same three guys on every track…It’s just a matter of what’s coming out of us at that point in time. It’s a very natural, organic process.”