Tag Archives: Karl Denson
July 13, 2011
Stanton Moore is everywhere, deal with it. And no drummer jokes, please. Seriously, it seems like Stanton Moore is the Warren Haynes of the skins, playing wherever, whenever he can and not only like he’s having a great time, but also as if his life depended on it. Whether leading his Galactic mates through a snare fed fury that turns the band into the equivalent of a human trap set, sitting in seemingly every night during Jazzfest he’s not gigging with the propulsively manic Garage a Trois, the brass royalty of the Midnite Disturbers, his own trio, or Galactic, this is a man who literally can’t sit down when he plays. He is simply having too much fun to keep still. Last year, Mr. Moore anchored Anders Osborne’s epic American Patchwork recording and tour in 2010 and fortified his collaboration with Hammond wiz Robert Walter. The tribal material and arrangements that grew from this collaboration resulted in one of the best albums of the year. Moore and Walter, along with guitarist Will Bernard, have further shaped their unique funk with the Stanton Moore Trio over the years and for those who love their B3 sound dripping in swamp juice and punchy percussive attacks that serve as smelling salts to the senses, you’ll like what you hear.
The New Orleans percussionist has taken up a month long Wednesday residency at The Mint for July, providing free all ages drum clinics before every show – a thoughtful give back for aspiring and seasoned players alike. Each show rotates in a different guest and I elected to hit the July 13th gig with Karl Denson. Within minutes of the 9:50ish start, the room was full. Not bad for the Wednesday night before Carmeggedon.
Opening with Walter ‘s staccato riffs on “Pie Eyed Manc” from 2010’s aptly titled Groove Alchemy, the set I heard started strong and headed higher. The chemistry between all three players was astonishing. Walter’s bass lines alone pushed and grabbed the trio, and especially Moore, to punch back and dig deep. The sound was vintage, old school and often organ driven (OK, Yamaha on wheels), shifting from a complex soul groove to in your face rapid fire I gotcha soloing. Heck, I half expected to hear the snap, crackle and pop of vinyl between notes. Denson altered his horn’s tone to great effect that only enhanced, not detracted, from some wicked and adventurous playing. By the time they hit “Magnolia Triangle” mid-set (from 2002’s Flying the Koop), the trio was a single swinging, squonking, fiery unit (wouldn’t have been surprised to see wisps of smoke rise from the bell of Denson’s tenor). The set closed with Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s, “Who Took the Happiness” (from 2008’s Take It to the Street), that stripped a larger brass band sound to it’s rawest elements with circular interplay wrapped around Walter’s keyboard bass and jungle-like swing. This was great stuff. Call it funk, call it jazz, call it soul. Don’t matter. As long as you respect the drummer.
June 26, 2011
Honey Island Swamp Band swung into the Westside on Saturday, another NOLA nugget appearing at the Mint. This is a New Orleans band that reflects its Katrina Diaspora-Bay Area birth with chunky and soulful jams, tight arrangements and great material. If you are expecting ballads, standards, and second lines, this ain’t that NOLA band. Whether moving easily from moments Dead infused or Dr. John influenced, their self-described Bayou Americana sound never loses sight of its swampy swagger or solo driven joy. The band has kicked ass at Jazzfest the past few years, so a chance to enjoy them here in the Southland was indeed a treat, and to my knowledge, The Mint gig is their first Los Angeles show.
At Fest performances and in the studio, HISB often fattens their arrangements with horns, and Saturday had that taste with Karl Denson sitting in for both sets contributing frequent solos and locking into some killer grooves with Trevor Brooks on keys and Chris Mule’s SG/Strat driven leads. When not providing the good time feel of a summer day front porch harp, Aaron Wilkinson switched between mandolin and his hollow-body Tele, taking the bluegrass string thing into Hendrix/Page territory, while the rhythm section of Sam Price and Garland Paul just kept having too much fun and pushing the band ahead. HISB can swing easily from romps like “Natural Born Fool”, and the Anders Osborne reminiscent “Till the Money’s Gone,” to there and back deep intense jams like “Wishing Well”. While the material is straight ahead, HISB is not shy about stretching out live.
The mixed crowd ranged from music savvy date night couples, thrilled to have the tables gone and the dance floor open for the second set, to the usual NOLA diehards that wouldn’t miss it. The vibe was relaxed and up.
This summer tour behind the their recent Threadhead Records release, “Good to You”, takes HISB from the where it all began of San Francisco’s Boom-Boom Room, to the where it was always meant to be at Tipitina’s in NOLA. I suspect they will be back in the SoCal soon, and playing bigger places. Catch them while you can.