For people who say groove can’t be taught, meet drummer Stanton Moore. A founding member of Galactic, New Orleans’ jazz-funk fusion group with a cult following, Moore knows how to go with the flow, which most recently culminated in the group’s acclaimed 2010 release Ya-Ka-May, featuring several other N’awlins notables. But along the way, Moore discovered he has “a knack” for teaching and producing music as well. With his own trio, Moore released Groove Alchemy earlier this year as a sort of teaching concept album. He also helped his good friend, New Orleans-based blues guitarist Anders Osborne, record his album American Patchwork, which Paste magazine described as “soulful, wildly diverse, thoughtful and raw.” We chatted with Moore in advance of his and Osborne’s performance at Sam’s Burger joint this weekend.
Can you talk about the concept of Groove Alchemy and how it was packaged?
We can start back with how I wrote a book and did a DVD for Take It To the Street, which was my approach to New Orleans stuff. Then I recorded all this music within the DVD and for samples and play-alongs for the book. I got the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and George Porter from the Meters on bass. I was really pleased with how that music came out, so after the DVD and book came out, I released it as a record. With Groove Alchemy, I had the idea to try to release it all at one time as one package. Within that, I examine some of the historical grooves and where those got developed, some of the innovations that led into that. Then I take some of those classic grooves and combine them with new grooves. Once I’ve demonstrated that and made my point, I put it into a song with the trio.
How did you get so active in a teacher role?
I think that all happened when Drum Magazine approached me to do a regular column on New Orleans-style drumming. I started writing it in a very clear way that explained things. People started commenting that I had a knack for doing that. I got brought to the attention of a publisher … and he said I had pretty much written chapter outlines and that if I fleshed that out, we’d have a book. So I did that and also did the DVD. I started doing clinics to support all that. To me it all goes hand and hand and helps deepen my knowledge of what I’m playing.
How did you meet Anders Osborne?
I just met him through us both being in the New Orleans music scene. That scene is pretty tightly knit, we’ve known each other for 20 years at least and we’ve always wanted to work more together but I’ve always been doing my thing, he’s always been doing his thing. Finally it was like, ‘Hey, let’s get together and work on his new record.’ He wanted me to co-produce it. I suggested we work together with Robert Walter, who was also the organist in my trio. The core band is me and Robert Walter and Anders, so we talked all the way leading up to this that we would try to get my record out and his record out by Jazz Fest 2010. The idea was to try to tour together so that I could try to be in two places at one time.
That tight-knit scene seems so idiosyncratic of New Orleans.
New Orleans just has a very communal spirit, and I think that is very different than a lot of cities. It’s just very community-based, even with different genres; you got a lot of guys hanging out and playing with each other even if they don’t play the same music. Now Frenchmen Street has got about six or seven clubs on it and all these different styles of music. In between breaks, everybody’s checking everyone else’s set out and hanging together later after the gig. In New Orleans, if you want to really work, you have to know how to play all kinds of different things: traditional New Orleans, jazz, second-line, funk, zydeco. Through doing that you end up meeting a lot of different people; it’s not like you’re just hanging with the jazz crowd or the rock crowd. Those lines are a little bit more blurred in New Orleans.
Can you talk about that in the context of recording Galactic’s latest album? You had everyone from Allen Toussaint (R&B pianist) to Big Freedia (of the infamous Sissy Bounce rap scene) appear.
We have a very collaborative spirit within Galactic. We’ve had different guest artists throughout our career. With the record before the current one, we had a lot of MCs. With this one, we had a lot of New Orleans artists, regardless of genre. As you said, we had everyone from Allen Toussaint to Big Freedia. You couldn’t have two more polar ends of the New Orleans spectrum. Allen Toussaint has been around for a long time and there’s a lot of tradition in what he does. He’s a legend, a luminary, whereas Big Freedia is representative of a younger generation and new things that are happening in New Orleans. To get both of them on the same record is kind of interesting. With Galactic, it’s all us playing, and then we get other people to interact with us. That’s kind of the unifying thread … and it works in a strange way.
If I’m going to New Orleans for the music on a weekend, any particular places you would recommend to check out?
Depending on who’s playing there: Tipitina’s, the Saint, the Maple Leaf, D.B.A. If you get there on a Thursday, try to go check out Kermit Ruffins at Vaughan’s or Soul Rebels at Le Bons Temps Roule. There’s tons of other places, but those few are a good place to start.
The Stanton Moore Trio
With Anders Osborne
8pm Thur, Dec 9
Sam’s Burger Joint
330 E. Grayson St