Tag Archives: Stanton Moore
December 12, 2012
Certain celestial alignments skip decades, if not lifetimes, or at a minimum, involve covering great distances at greater expense. Think solar eclipses, Comet Hale-Bopp or if you get around, the aurora. Even then, there is the unexpected cloud cover that can scotch the most anticipated and well-planned events. While the intersection of talent that is Dragon Smoke may not operate on a celestial plane, the fact the band exists, let alone has endured for a decade, is pretty damn impressive. Comprised of the Galactic’s drummer Stanton Moore and bassist Robert Mercurio, guitarist/songwriter Eric Lindell and funk master Ivan Neville on keys and vocals, the band is a potential one-off that never offed. The lineage speaks propulsive, jammy funk meets soulful vocals as one would expect with the Galactic rhythm section, stinging Lindell leads, swampy Neville keys and alternating Neville/Lindell voices. They deliver that and then some.
The demanding tour schedules of Galactic, Dumpstaphunk and Lindell, coupled with additional musical pursuits, make the right place/right time convergence of the four principals slightly more frequent than a Cubs post-season appearance, or at least cause for celebration. Yet, the band has been a fixture for 10+ years on the Tuesday between Jazzfest weekends, while managing to pop up for rare winter forays west of the Mississippi, including another December gig at The Mint as part of a 5-date West Coast-ish swing. Their show last year killed and was of one the room’s most memorable of 2011.
The musical affection between the players is obvious from the get-go. Like a family reunion where you don’t see enough of each other, stay up all night, then go on with your lives until the next one. The material is generously shared and enthusiastically played. And while many similar collaborations often lose focus, tread on reputation or simply go sideways, these guys play for keeps. It sure doesn’t feel or sound like a side project.
Opening with the country ramble feel of “Sunday Morning”, the trademark swapping of Lindell and Neville led tunes jumped right into the Dyke and the Blazers funk of “Let a Woman, Be a Woman” with Stanton Moore sneaking in a NOLA brass snare rhythm between a barrel full of fills, and Neville chomping at his clavs and working his B3. Funky, fun, and delicious. The stutter step blues rock of Lindell’s “Country Livin’” (from 2009’s “Gulf Coast Highway”) sounded pretty damn good, accented by Neville’s Hammond runs and Moore’s cascades, and the War-like soul of father Aaron’s “Hercules” brought things back to an appropriate simmer. A couple of Lindell tunes followed, including “Two Bit Town” (from 2006’s “Change in the Weather” and the pretty “Lullaby for Mercy Ann” (from “Gulf Coast Highway”). The Meters were in the room with “Out in the Country” (“nobody plays it like this” professed Neville), before Lindell stretched out with the breezy “Valerie” (a Zutons’ song most notably covered by the late Amy Winehouse). The first set closed with Gerald Tillman’s (aka, Professor Shorthair) “Padlock” (from Neville’s 1995 “Thanks”) anchored by Neville’s B3 and clav blend punctuated by Lindell’s needle stick delivery and a perfect Meters-esque groove over the lines “somebody’s been sleepin’ in my bed”.
The sold out room had a climate closer to a Bikram yoga class than the cool rainy weather outside, so some oxygen was in order for the break. By the time the band returned for their second set, everyone was a bit more refreshed and most stayed.
The 10-song set went appropriately deeper than the first. Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands” began with spare soulful “uh-huhs” from Neville and built into a creeping, slippery jam that had the crowd singing the “like the way you work it” chorus part of the tune. One of the night’s high points, for sure. The band brought a relaxed loping ‘tude to the Mardi Gras Indian driven “Indians, Here Dey Come” and even a touch of Dead influence meets NOLA backbeat to it, thanks to some Jerry-like inflections from Lindell and Moore’s expansive snare vocabulary. Another Lindell tune, “Won’t Be Long” (from “Change in the Weather”) featured a slow voltage bridge and blue-eyed soul progression that lives in Lindell’s wheelhouse. “Slippin’ Into Darkness” is such a natural cover for the band, they should have written the classic. All the pieces fit just right. Dropping in a “Get Up, Stand Up” tease, then flipping into The Meters “Fire on the Bayou” and again to Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle”, before landing back to “Slippin’” was pretty fine. Curtis Mayfield’s “If There’s a Hell Below (We’re All Gonna Go”) was sandwiched between a few more Lindell tunes that brought the set to a close, and featured some well past midnight clav explorations by Neville. The clock was pushing 1 AM on an early Thursday morning by the time the encore of Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round in Circles” had wrapped.
Robert Mercurio’s recent interview with jambands.com is illuminating reading on how these guys find a way to stick together, and the glue that makes it happen. With grueling schedules and commitments all over the place, the band must want this pretty bad (heck, it would be way easier not to do it). Nonetheless, you may have a better chance of catching an eclipse some years, so best to presume their next orbit is their only orbit. If you are in NOLA the days between the Fest or within hollering distance of their brief trips west, consider yourself lucky and get your ass down to One Eyed Jacks or other respectable live music establishment. This constellation may not come around again, and if it does, you better be there.
From the Revivalists passionate opening Gentilly set to the final moments of Springsteen’s plaintive reading of Saints, the first weekend of Jazzfest 2012 was an abundance of special moments. Yes, the draws were the Acura headliners. Petty and Bruce delivered deep satisfying sets (from what I was able to catch), and Springsteen’s presence was a rallying cry of celebration and reflection. A reminder of how New Orleans has healed since his epic 2006 post-Katrina Seeger Sessions appearance, and how far there is still to go. Even the Beach Boys brought their game, judging by the smiles and sing alongs from a nice size Acura crowd. But, hey, did you check out Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 at Congo Square? The four generations of players from 9 to 90+ that filled the Fais Do Do on Saturday for the Savoy Music Center Cajun Jam? How about Bon Iver’s stirring (and unexpected) connection with the Jazzfest crowd? Gary Clark, Jr. absolutely tearing down the Blues Tent opposite the Boss with Texas blues that left teeth marks? Not to mention the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars and Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen showing Tom Petty how it’s done in New Orleans. Sure until self-cloning is an app, we all pang for what we missed. Weekend 1 proved, yet again, no matter where you are at the Fest, it’s exactly where you should be.
The days between were not too shabby. Instruments A’ Comin’ on Monday night at Tip’s and New Orleans Musicians for Obama at Generations Hall on Tuesday had my head spinning (in a good way). IAC was loaded this year, as always. The sight/sounds of the best young brass in town marching along a closed Napoleon Ave. is breathtaking, and Shorty, Galactic, HISB and a cast of thousands made for a very satisfying 4:30 AM bedtime. Tuesday night’s “ObamaFest” had some unfortunate ticketing glitches, but once inside Generations Hall, there was a little bit of everything with two stages, multiple bars and a great relaxed vibe. The mostly Meters mini-set with Dr. John was locked in and tight, the highlight of the night by far.
The second weekend of the Fest boasted one of the richest lineups in year. While the Foos and the Eagles were not in the cards for me (my closest encounter was fighting the 65,000 Eagles fans for the exit), the Gentilly Stage and the Blues Tent pulled me like magnets. Thursday can never be a bad day. The crowds are lighter and headliners undemanding. It’s easy to roam, chill and eat. Like a bonus day. Flow Tribe completely entertained, Glen Hansaard sang/played his heart out with a 6-string that makes Willie Nelson’s “Trigger” look new. Honey Island Swamp Band’s “Bayou Americana” keeps getting better. George Porter, Jr. and his Runnin’ Pardners were totally in the groove. Regina Carter’s Reverse Thread was magical and Florence Welch had me completely under her spell. Only at Jazzfest could Florence + the Machine be counterpointed with the earthy grit of James Cotton’s blowing in the Blues Tent. If that’s a down day at the Fest, give me more.
Friday was a highlight. Grace Potter’s scorching stage presence was topped by the Nocturnals go for broke delivery. Hornsby’s long overdue Fest debut was juicy and this Bruce was loving every minute of it, especially when joined by dem ‘bones. Rodrigo y Gabriela’s metal rooted world nylon string mash up was mesmerizing. Zac Brown showed why he is a festival circuit favorite, and so much more than a solid country rock comer.
Saturday brought a rollicking (and rocking tight) Allen Toussaint set. Anders Osborne, fresh from the release of “Black Eye Galaxy” dug deep and raw, then vulnerable. Dropping the guitar and backed by strings, “Higher Ground” was simply beautiful. John Boutte brought the house down with a triumphant Jazz Tent performance and running between My Morning Jacket, Herbie Hancock and the Warren Haynes Band (with Dr. John) sums up why there is nothing like Jazzfest. The Haynes Band especially shined in the slot originally scheduled for Levon Helm. Levon’s spirit was all over the Fest, whether it was Hornsby covering “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” or Mavis Staples bringing the crowd to tears in the Gospel Tent with “The Weight”.
By the time Sunday rolls around, you tell yourself the tank is more than half full, not running down fast. You believe the flight home is just a scheduling mistake, rather than a cruel joke. Then Galactic overpowers the Acura crowd. Glen David Andrews brings out that red horn and everyone rises a few inches off the ground. You go to church with the entire Boutte clan. David Sanborn and Joey DeFrancesco seize the Jazz Tent crowd before the final coming together to honor 50 years of Preservation Hall, with guests that celebrate all that is New Orleans music. Go shake it with Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings before the reality sets in that there are only 355 more sleeps to Jazzfest 2013. Now that’s a life. Thank you Quint and every human who make Jazzfest possible.
December 31, 2011
Bill Graham spoiled me. The man knew how to throw a New Year’s party. 4-5 hours of cosmic Dead jams, epic substance abuse and 6,000 or so of my newest friends. The calendar would turn, Uncle Bobo would descend, Sugar Mag would kick in and all was right with the world. OK, so that was 30 years ago. Still, that ecstatic pull set a high bar few 12/31s have matched since. These days when milestones are counted in decades, New Year’s is often kept in quieter company and places, and indulgence swapped for reflection. But damn, the echo still haunts and the spirit craves a hit that only a hard wired all night jam or funk groove can provide. Add a few hundred people (or thousands or multiples thereof) primed to kick last year in the ass and anything’s possible. Call me a seeker.
Such was my latest NOLA pilgrimage that landed me at Tip’s in the waning hours of 2011 for Galactic’s annual year-end bash. With Eric Lindell’s Trio opening and billed guests including Anders Osborne, Corey Henry from Rebirth and Corey Glover of Living Colour (both Coreys vets of the last Galactic tour), prospects for New Year’s salvation seemed reasonable. Galactic’s newest release “Carnivale Electricos” is described by the band’s web site as a “carnival record that evokes the electric atmosphere of … whole cities – vibrating together all on the same day”. Sounds pretty 3 AMy to me. Throw Anders Osborne and Lindell into the mix and confidence was high going in.
Lindell’s trio delivered a healthy solid set to get the room closer to midnight. Spirits were high as the last hour of 2011 approached and the crowd was appropriately exuberant (deliberate choice of words). Galactic landed with “Boban” (from the 2011 release, The Other Side of Midnight:Live From New Orleans) and didn’t let up from there, in what turned out to be the first of (count ‘em) 3 sets. “Hey Na Na” from “Carnivale Electricos” cranked up the energy a little before midnight when we all reverted to the timelessness of Auld Lang Syne because we could and that’s what you do. 2012 was inaugurated with Lindell joining Galactic to romp through Steve Miller’s “Jet Airliner”, a killer cover that gets better each time Lindell busts it out. Other first set highlights had Corey Glover working the crowd into a lather (and in an argyle sweater vest, no less) with “Heart of Steel” (from 2010’s “Ya-Ka-May) and Stanton Moore elevating for the first time in the show.
Announced guest Anders Osborne went straight for “Darkness at the Bottom” (from his 2010 American Patchwork release) to start Set 2, one of my favorite rip your soul open Osborne tunes. Jonny Sansone joined Anders with just plain nasty harmonica turns on his own “The Lord is Waiting and the Devil Is Too” (from the 2011 release of the same name). Anders and Sansone stuck around to cover “Who Took the Happiness” (featured on Moore’s 2008 release, Take It to the Street) to wrap up a killer set within a set. Much of the second set featured Corey Glover, but the band really had me with a loose and frenzied “Manic Depression”. Ben Ellman moving from baritone to ballsy harp wasn’t too shabby either.
With just enough in the tank to start the third set, I profess to not making it all the way to the end, but an appropriately funky cover of Lee Dorsey’s/Allen Touissant’s “Night People” and the Arabian-brass-prog-metal tinged flavor of “Garbage Truck”(from The Other Side of Midnight) were perfectly suited for the hour. Somewhere along the way Corey Henry stepped into the crowd and climbed atop the bar never missing a note. Exhausted, satiated, I left Tip’s past 3, ready to take on a new year. Spiritual awakening, nah. Uplift, hell yeah. That’s good enough for me. Think I’m ready to kick some 2012 ass now.
December 7, 2011
“Supergroups” are described by Wikipedia as one “whose performers are already famous from having performed individually or in other groups”, citing a 1974 Time article that such configurations are an “amalgam formed by the talented malcontents of other bands”. Wiki does not know all, but the concept of taking a bunch of disparate talents of some repute, throwing them together and expecting them to live up to their progeny is typically a recipe for failure, or at least a really lame experiment (or an overt attempt to cash in). They’re not always stinkers, as this year’s “SuperHeavy” project, or the legacy of the “Travelling Wilburys”, and even “Blind Faith” exemplify. But what some may call a “supergroup” is often just another night in NOLA during Jazzfest, when the best of the NOLA music scene can’t stay away from each other and keep going ‘til dawn cracks the sky. These loose jam sessions don’t always click. Overly familiar material, too much noodling and no cohesion are not unusual. But other nights, magic gets sprinkled and familiar material becomes musical epoxy for epic jamming that can’t be bottled, or more daring tunes work their way into the mix. NOLA musicians form so many different constellations during the Fest it borders on incest, but it really is just the natural order for players who love to flat out play wherever, whenever they can.
Which brings me to Dragon Smoke. Neville. Moore. Lindell. Mercurio. Names not as familiar west of the Mississippi, but NOLA royalty be it as Galactic, Dumpstaphunk, the Nevilles, Lindell, Garage a Trois and others. Formed in 2003, they have played every Fest since, but rarely travel west to bring their 3 AM spirit around a corner that’s not on Frenchmen, Napoleon, Peters or Oak. The lineage speaks propulsive, jammy funk meets soulful vocals as one would expect with the Galactic rhythm section, stinging Lindell leads, swampy Neville keys and alternating Neville/Lindell voices.
At Wednesday’s Dragon Smoke gig at The Mint, I went looking to see if the whole would be bigger than the sum of its parts, and whether the vibe and sound would be more of the loose one-off of funk covers variety, or filled with the swagger and punch of seasoned vets excited to find a fresh voice. Surprise. From the first tune through last of two full sets, the band played as a singular unit totally conversant with each other, and were tight, tight, tight all night long. Opening with Lindell’s “Country Livin’”, (from his 2009 Gulf Coast Highway release) these guys jumped right in and never let up. Lindell was in strong voice and coaxed the right twang out of his SG (not an easy thing to do), trading licks with Ivan Neville, then stopping on a dime for a cascade of Stanton Moore fills. The straight up funk of Dyke & the Blazers “Let a Woman Be a Woman” nicely showcased Ivan’s straight from the early 80s clavinet chops. Lindell’s “It Won’t Be Long” (from the 2006 release, Change in the Weather) and Ivan’s father Aaron’s “Hercules” continued the nice back/forth between Lindell and Neville arranged tunes. Ivan and Stanton Moore brought some nice seasoning to “Injuns, Here They Come”, with Moore’s snare really leading the way. Later in the set, Neville brought just the right touch of churchy keys to complement Lindell’s Anders-esque vocals on the tender “Lullaby for Mercy Ann” (from Gulf Coast Highway). The first set closed with a rollicking and hard edged cover of Steve Miller’s “Jet AirLiner”. So far, so good.
After a refreshingly reasonable break, the band returned for the next set. Despite pushing midnight for a mid-week show, everyone stuck around, and no doubt, glad they did. The second set had deeper grooves, and some extended playing. Not loose single-minded solo excursions, but concise all for one explorations that allowed the quartet to settle into just the right pocket with each other. A cover of Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands” had some great moments, especially slinking around every note of Ivan’s clav and keys, creating plenty of space for Lindell, Moore and Mercurio to reach, punch and throw more into the stew. Delicious. Lindell’s “Lucky, Lucky” (from the 2011 release, West County Drifter) brought a “Sugaree” reminiscent feel with some compact and very tasty turns on his SG. The jazz-blues inflected “Valerie” (made famous by Amy Winehouse) was perfectly suited to the Dragon Smoke treatment and covers of “Slippin’ Into Darkness” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” were completely gratifying. The set wrapped with Lindell’s “It’s a Pity (from his 2009 release Low on Cash, Rich in Love) with the sickest jam of the night – all four guys just hugging the minor 7th-ish change for all it’s worth. Everyone stretching out one more time, the whole unit bringing an almost Derek & the Dominoes cum NOLA infused feel to the Lindell tune. That’s high praise. The band came back for the upbeat soul of Lindell’s “Nothin’ Can Stop Me” to cap it off.
Far from being thrown together, the four musicians that make up Dragon Smoke are meant to play together – each bringing something to complement and wring the best out of the other. They just fit. The band intends to lay down some tracks soon, but in the meantime their recently released live CD, “Live in New Orleans” is available on Amazon and iTunes, and features many of the songs featured at The Mint.
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.