III – Stanton Moore
While most bands jockey for weekly relevance, hedging in their market-niche with poison-tipped hyphens, Stanton Moore often situates himself elsewhere. Having been expunged by a scene with a post-adolescent rock fetish, Moore often finds himself one of the few remaining denizens in a seemingly forsaken land. With his new album III, Moore intimates, like his decision to remain in New Orleans, that he won’t soon vacate the pocket.
The notion of a drummer-fronted band begs a proprietary question, especially when many of the tracks on III could just as easily wake up to find themselves on a Galactic, Garage a Trois, or Greyboy Allstars album. With organist Robert Walter providing the majority of the songwriting, a cheeky collective tag for the trio of Moore, Walter, and guitarist Will Bernard seems, at first, most appropriate. Yet, within Walter’s time-tested boogaloo template, III is a drummer’s album. Recently voted "#1 Jazz Drummer" in the UK’s RHYTHM magazine reader’s poll, it is Moore who takes the day, and whose signature is most readily apparent.
That said, III is not Flyin’ the Koop, or All Kooked Out, Moore’s earlier solo collaborations with Charlie Hunter, Skerik, Mike Dillon and co., for which Moore garnered his "jazz-meets-Bonham, nouveau second-line" reputation. Remember, there is nothing hyphenated happening here. Skerik’s guest appearances (with trombonist Mark Mullins) are uncharacteristically reserved, and the steamroller utilized in Galactic’s "steamroller funk" seems to have been lost in the flood. Recorded in New Orleans’ historic Preservation Hall during the venue’s post-storm vacancy, III bears the building’s indelible imprint. Rather than forcing pre-Katrina nostalgia, a political gesture clumsily rendered by too many reputable musicians in the past year, Moore’s trio goes to the source. The drums are a touch flat, and the soloing well inside the box. While Moore’s NO roots are nothing new to speak of, with III, they may be most clearly evinced.
In walking the traditional line, however, freshness can be hard to come by. Tracks like the strutting "Licorice" and clave-driven "Maple Plank" make me wonder if the NO phoenix might rather return with slightly different plumage. The disc closing spiritual "I Shall Not Be Moved" hits the mark, though, lead by Bernard's slide work. "Chilcock," too, a gospel-infused Skerik vehicle, strikes a perfect balance of soulful testament and amorphous tweakery. "Big 'Uns Get the Ball Rolling" is, however, the reason we know Stanton Moore's name. A rollicking Greyboy boogaloo, thanks to Walter's nimble left hand, the track could be stripped to its snare and still have the thrust to move a room.
The reasons for covering Led Zepplin's "When the Levee Breaks" must have been manifold. An elegy to a fallen city. A platform for Bernard's slide prowess. A capitulating nod to Moore's critical comparison. A NO nose-thumbing at rockaholics worldwide. Whatever the reason, the track is III distilled. A likely forum for brazen, Bonham-esque cymbal bashing, Moore rolls into the tune at a dirge. What follows is delicate and mournful. Moore urges Bernard’s lamentations forward and cradles Walter’s whispering condolences. It’s a funeral march. Nothing new. In fact, just what we might have counted on.