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Published: 2017/07/19
by Larson Sutton

Stanton Moore’s Tribute to Allen Toussaint

Photo by Patrick Gray

Stanton Moore was all set to record a new album with his Trio when the drummer got word of the passing of the legendary New Orleans musician and songwriter Allen Toussaint. Moore immediately scrapped his plans and instead chose to record a guest-heavy tribute album, With You in Mind, featuring ten Toussaint songs, including a new track inspired by a poem from the late keyboardist. Moore spoke to us from his New Orleans hometown about the album, the immense effect of Toussaint’s music, and the role of musicians as ambassadors for the Crescent City.

It’s wonderful for me to hear a tribute album that has the flow of a great record rather than a piecemeal collection of hits thrown together.

Thank you for saying that. I’m always trying to be conscious of continuity within a record. I was so confident we would achieve continuity because the trio—me, James Singleton (bass), and David Torkanowsky (piano)—we’d been playing a lot together. And all of the material is composed by Allen Toussaint. As we added special guests to it, and did funk in seven, and funk in five, on the same record as jazz ballads, it could go horribly awry. But, I felt confident we’d be able to do it. I feel like we have a way of tying all those genres together to sound varied without sounding schizophrenic.

How did you choose to record these ten songs of Allen’s?

We wanted to be aware to not do anything that was overly done. Some of the tunes we chose had been done a lot, but we wanted to do those in a way that was different. Knowing that Allen played Snug Harbor a lot, which is kind of our home base, and he loved jazz, we felt like we wanted to venture in some of those directions a little bit in a way that he might not necessarily venture into himself, but that he would appreciate. He was an appreciator of all different kinds of music; all different angles and approaches. I wanted to pay respect to his compositions, but put our own spin on them in a way that he would have really dug.

Can you tell me about “The Beat?” How did that essentially new Allen Toussaint song come about?

“The Beat” was a poem Allen wrote. I think we got a copy of it from Reggie Toussaint. We said, “Let’s try to compose music to go along with it as a spoken word. We’ll have Cyril Neville do it as a spoken word.” So, that is what we did. We just kind of rolled with it. I thought it was a cool idea.

Is there more from the sessions than these ten songs?

The answer is no. We didn’t record anything extra. We put so much effort into each song—horn overdubs, vocal overdubs—so it was very time-intensive. Going in, we didn’t have a lot of time booked for our own record. We heard about Allen’s passing with not much time before going into the studio (to work on that Trio record) when we decided (instead) to do this tribute. It was very collaborative, very much a team effort, but we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. We didn’t want to record a bunch of extra stuff. We focused on ten tunes and making them the best they could absolutely could be.

As a piano player, how did Allen and his songs lend themselves to be interpreted by you as a drummer?

People, in general, are drawn to Allen’s music because the compositions are so amazing, but they are also very rhythmic. Coming from New Orleans, from his background, a strong rhythmic element is always present drawing not just me, but a lot of people. That lends itself to me being able to put my spin on it because there is so much to work with there. Also, “With You in Mind,” on that song I wasn’t trying to think drumistically at all. That’s a jazz ballad with brushes. I was trying to support the melody and not necessarily think of beats but of textures.

How will this album’s material figure into live shows?

The plan is to start doing some dates. We’re working towards that; to figure out when to do that around the Galactic schedule.

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