Stan­ton moore

The funk star re­veals all about his new al­bum

Rhythm - - CONTENTS - Words: David West photos: press

From the 1950s through to his death in Novem­ber 2015, Allen Tous­saint was in­trin­sic to the unique mu­si­cal cul­ture of New Or­leans. He wrote, played on and pro­duced hun­dreds of records, gave The Me­ters their start as the in-house band at his stu­dio, and he’s worked with ev­ery­one from Paul McCart­ney to Dr John to The Band. Tous­saint’s sud­den pass­ing while on tour in Europe in­spired an­other of New Or­leans’ bright­est mu­si­cal stars to pay trib­ute to the fallen leg­end. Galac­tic’s Stan­ton Moore as­sem­bled his trio – David ‘Tork’ Torkanowsky on keys and bassist James Sin­gle­ton –to record With You In Mind: The Songs Of Allen

Tous­saint. Join­ing them on the al­bum are some of the funki­est play­ers in the busi­ness, with Ni­cholas Pay­ton, Trom­bone Shorty, Maceo Parker, Don­ald Har­ri­son Jr, along­side vo­cal­ists Kiki Chap­man and Cyril Neville con­tribut­ing to what is an uplift­ing cel­e­bra­tion of Tous­saint’s re­mark­able life. When

Rhythm speaks to Moore, he’s hur­ry­ing to get out of a Louisiana rain­storm while on his way to film an­other les­son for his on­line Stan­ton Moore Drum Academy. From Galac­tic to his trio to his sem­i­nal funk in­struc­tional GrooveAlchemy, Moore seems to have the dis­tinc­tive grooves of New Or­leans in his very bones.

Has Allen Tous­saint cast a long shadow over the mu­sic of New Or­leans?

“Yeah, def­i­nitely. It could be said that he wrote the sound­track to New Or­leans, re­ally. His com­po­si­tions are just so per­va­sive; they show up ev­ery­where, and when you went to see him live and he started play­ing, you re­alised, ‘Oh, he wrote that?’ And, ‘Oh, he wrote that too?’ It’s re­ally amaz­ing be­cause he wrote so much for peo­ple, things that he didn’t even record him­self but he’d play them live. It’s amaz­ing how pro­lific he was as a writer, but also as a pro­ducer and in his own right.”

You worked with him on a few oc­ca­sions?

“Yeah, we worked with him a few times. He would sit in with Galac­tic or we’d have him open up, solo pi­ano, and then he would sit in with us. We handed over a cou­ple of in­stru­men­tal things to him, and he wrote lyrics to them. One of them made one of

our records, that tune was ‘Bac­chus’ that made

Ya-Ka-May, and then ‘Muss The Hair’ was an­other one, and that was on Ya-Ka-May as a Ja­panese bonus track. I didn’t get to work with him quite as much as I would have liked to, I’m sure we were hop­ing that we’d work more with him in the fu­ture, but it was al­ways a plea­sure.”

What was he like to play with? How did he feel time and groove?

“To me, he kind of floated above what was hap­pen­ing. Some guys have more of a sense of a time that digs in­side and gets un­der­neath what’s go­ing on. Some play­ers you play with, you feel like they’re sup­port­ing you in a way, and the drums have to lock in with what they’re do­ing. With Allen, he al­ways seemed to float on top, which is great be­cause he al­ways colours the mu­sic in the way that he writes lyri­cally and in his ar­range­ments. All the horn ar­range­ments he would do, or back­ground vo­cal ar­range­ments – he was re­ally in­cred­i­ble at adding to the mu­sic in a way that the struc­ture and the rhythm sec­tion were there but then he would add colour and vibe and tex­ture, and of course melody and har­mony on top. That’s the way he would play pi­ano, too – he was adding to what was go­ing on.”

When did you de­cide to record a trib­ute to Tous­saint with your trio?

“Our in­ten­tion was to go in and make an­other record. We had stu­dio time booked and we had tunes picked out, but then once we got the news that Allen had passed, we started to think, well, we should def­i­nitely pay homage to Allen in some way. There’s so much great ma­te­rial that he wrote or was a part of that the record started fall­ing into place pretty eas­ily. I would come up with the idea of do­ing ‘Every­thing I Do Gone Be Funky’ in 5, James came up with the idea of do­ing ‘Life’ in 7, Tork came up with the idea of hav­ing Kiki Chap­man sing ‘All Th­ese Things’. I hadn’t worked with Kiki. Tork said ‘Man, trust me, you’ve got to have this girl on your record,’ so the first time I re­ally heard her sing was when we recorded in our stu­dio. I heard her sing through my head­phones while we were play­ing and the hair stood up on my arms.

“We started think­ing for ‘Every­thing I Do Gone Be Funky’ and ‘Life’ and ‘Night Peo­ple’ and ‘Here Come The Girls’, let’s see if we can get Cyril [Neville] to come in. It all started fall­ing into place. It was al­most like sculpt­ing an au­ral landscape. A lot of times peo­ple write out ar­range­ments and tell ev­ery­body, ‘This is your part, you sing this part, you play this part,’ but we re­ally sculpted every­thing as we went along. ‘Cyril sounded great on that, maybe we should think about get­ting some back­grounds. Who do we call for back­grounds? Let’s call Erica Falls, and let’s call Kiki back and have her and Erica do back­grounds, and let’s get Ivan Neville on here too.’ For lack of a bet­ter de­scrip­tion, we re­ally just made it up as we went along. Be­ing in New Or­leans, you’ve got ac­cess to some of the great­est mu­si­cians in the world, and it’s like hav­ing the most amaz­ing tool­box at your fingertips, so we had great tal­ent to pick from. If you want to think of it as paint­ing a pic­ture, we just had a great palette of colours to draw from and re­ally add to this can­vas of this record that we all helped cre­ate to­gether.”

So many New Or­leans stars –Trom­bone Shorty, Ni­cholas Pay­ton, Don­ald Har­ri­son Jr – ap­pear on the al­bum. How did you pick th­ese guys?

“The way we wanted to do it was not just hap­haz­ard, but think­ing, ‘Who are some of my favourite horn play­ers coming from a real New Or­leans back­ground that I don’t get to see play to­gether, but who would cre­ate an in­ter­est­ing tex­ture?’ That’s why, when I thought I wanted to have Ni­cholas on the record, then you start think­ing, who would be great in a sax­o­phone con­text with that? Oh, Don­ald Har­ri­son Jr! Who should we get to play trom­bone when we’ve got Ni­cholas and Don­ald? Well, let’s call Trom­bone Shorty. Just putting it all to­gether in a way that would be ex­cit­ing not just for me but for the lis­tener as well. Ni­cholas, Don­ald and Shorty – I want to hear that!”

Was it a chal­lenge to take tunes like ‘Every­thing I Do Gone Be Funky’ and ‘Life’ and keep them groov­ing when not played in 4/4?

“What’s cool is that David and James and I have been play­ing in 5 and 7 a lot. We’ve been play­ing ‘Mag­no­lia Tri­an­gle’ and ‘Dee Wee’, and oc­ca­sion­ally I would start play­ing things that I might play in funk, so stuff on the hi-hat that might be in­flu­enced by Zi­ga­boo, stuff on the pan­deiro and the cow­bell where I might have been try­ing to ap­prox­i­mate Mardi Gras In­dian stuff, or stuff on the snare drum where I’m try­ing to blend Her­lin Ri­ley and Johnny Vi­da­covich. Even though ‘Mag­no­lia Tri­an­gle’ is more of a jazz tune, over the course of play­ing this a lot and do­ing dif­fer­ent things to it, when we went to play ‘Every­thing I Do Gone Be Funky’, I al­ready had a whole bunch of ideas of funky stuff to play in 5. We’d been play­ing ‘Paul Bar­barin’ in 7, there’s a tune we do called ‘Oa­sis’ in 7 which goes into Afro-Cuban and funk, so I had a lot of ideas al­ready to­gether in 5 and

“Be­ing in New Or­leans, you’ve got. ac­cess to some of the great­est mu­si­cians. in the world and it’s like hav­ing. the most amaz­ing tool­box”

in 7, and when it came to ap­ply them to th­ese Allen tunes, we were al­ready com­fort­able and we just made it funkier.

“Cyril was a re­ally great sport – every mu­si­cian in New Or­leans con­sid­ers Cyril Neville to be one of the great­est soul singers of all time, but I don’t know if he’s ever sung in 5 or 7, so it’s been amaz­ing to hear him adapt to it, and it’s been very cool of him to be will­ing to do that. It’s fun for me to hear it, and hope­fully peo­ple who are check­ing out the record are dig­ging on all that as well.”

You tack­led ‘River­boat’, an old tune recorded by Lee Dorsey with James Black drum­ming on the orig­i­nal track!

“Part of the leg­end around that tune is Allen had a few dif­fer­ent drum­mers come in, and he wrote out a very spe­cific part that’s pretty lin­ear. At that time, in the early 60s, not a lot of drum­mers were used to play­ing that way, so Allen fi­nally called James Black to come do it. James Black laid it down in one take and said, ‘What else you got?’ Tork and Sin­gle­ton had played with James Black – we all hold him in very high re­gard, we play a lot of his com­po­si­tions – so it just seemed to make sense to play this leg­endary tune that James played and do our own take on it.”

Where did you record and on what drums?

“Par­lour Stu­dio, a great stu­dio in New Or­leans. I was in the main room, bass was in an iso room and pi­ano was in an iso room as well. I played a 12", 14", 18" bop kit, USA Cus­tom. I in­ten­tion­ally wanted to make things a lit­tle bit more on the jazz end of the spec­trum, but things wound up turn­ing into some pretty funky, heavy stuff on ‘Night Peo­ple’, ‘Here Come The Girls’. I’m very used to play­ing funk with an 18" bass drum.

“I love to play on ei­ther an 18" or a 26". The rea­son for that is on an 18" the beater is play­ing above the cen­tre of the bass drum and on a 26" the beater is play­ing be­low the cen­tre – and ei­ther way it’s a tim­pani ap­proach. On a tim­pani you’re play­ing off-cen­tre be­cause you’re get­ting a more res­o­nant sound. When you play the cen­tre of the head – whether it’s a tim­pani or a bass drum or the snare drum – you’re get­ting the dead­est sound. I like to have a more open sound, and you can get that on an 18" or a 26". This is sim­i­lar to what I would do with my jazz trio but I add the pan­deiro on the left and the cow­bell. I did use the pan­deiro a good bit on ‘Night Peo­ple’ and ‘Every­thing I Do Gone Be Funky’, so it’s pretty much a bop kit but the bass drum is tuned a lit­tle lower than some jazz guys would tune it. Even though I’m play­ing with a grand pi­ano, up­right bass and play­ing a bop kit, we still dip into some of the New Or­leans sec­ond line stuff, some of the Mardi Gras In­dian stuff, some of the funkier stuff, so I still like to have my 18" tuned a lit­tle on the big­ger, open, low-end side than some peo­ple might tune a bop kit.”

With New Or­leans mu­si­cians in gen­eral – and Allen Tous­saint in par­tic­u­lar – there’s that abil­ity to freely cross be­tween jazz, funk, andR&B.

“If you want to work in New Or­leans, you need to be adept at play­ing all of those dif­fer­ent styles. I would like to think that as I de­velop, as I get older, I’ve got­ten more deft at blur­ring those lines to where I’m much more com­fort­able switch­ing from brushes to play­ing with sticks with my pan­deiro and my cow­bell. It’s all just dif­fer­ent colours in my palette now, whereas four, five years ago when I started con­cen­trat­ing more on the jazz, it was a lit­tle more de­lin­eated. It’s all mu­sic, it’s all drums. To put to­gether a record that has got four on the floor on it with ‘Night Peo­ple’ and then 5/8 funk in

‘Every­thing I Do Gone Be Funky’, and then brushes bal­lads with All‘ Th­ese Things’ and ‘With You In Mind’, if I can make all that work on one record and make it very nat­u­ral and not feel forced, then hope­fully I’m get­ting some­where.”

Where do you find in­spi­ra­tion and ideas for your brushes play­ing?

“That’s a great ques­tion. When I fin­ished Groove Alchemy, I felt like I’d put my­self through a doc­toral pro­gram on funk drum­ming, and af­ter I got done I was like, ‘Okay, I don’t want to do any­thing like that for a while.’ About two weeks later I was like, ‘Okay, what next?’ I started think­ing I’d like to put the jazz side of my play­ing through more of a doc­toral pro­gram, and that in­cluded the brush end of things. I started go­ing through every brush DVD and book that I could find, but then I started reach­ing out to all of my drum bud­dies who are also su­per into brushes.

“To make a long story short, I’ve had ho­tel room hangs where we show each other stuff with Steve Smith, John Ri­ley, Russ Miller… be­lieve it or not, Ja­son Sut­ter is a great brush player who’s been study­ing with Jeff Hamil­ton. I would go to Jeff Hamil­ton’s house and we’d open up wine. As the sun went down I’d say, ‘Jeff, there’s a cou­ple of things I want to show you that I’ve been work­ing on with brushes,’ know­ing that I’m invit­ing my­self to the lion’s den. We’d go into his drum room, which is on the sec­ond floor of his barn, I’d show him some things I’d been work­ing on. He’d be sit­ting on the arm of his arm­chair sip­ping his glass of wine, smil­ing, ‘That’s pretty cool, you need to get more lift in your right hand and you need to get more snap in your left hand.’ I’ll turn the brushes around and hand them to him and say, ‘Oh yeah? Show me!’ He laughs, ‘Oh, it’s go­ing to be like that, huh?’ ‘Yeah, it’s go­ing to be ex­actly like that!’

“I just take from all this and of course Flo­rian Alexan­dru-Zorn – the Ger­man guy who has come up with some re­ally in­ter­est­ing ap­proaches on brushes – and I try to fig­ure out how to ap­ply it to what I’m do­ing. Mix­ing some of Flo­rian’s sweeps with Jeff Hamil­ton’s sweeps and coming up with how to play all the stick­ings that I’ve been play­ing over the years – all of the Johnny Vi­da­covich stick­ings and all of my vari­a­tions. Of course, I went through Ed Thig­pen’s book and DVD and there are sev­eral other books I went through. I just tried to ab­sorb every­thing I pos­si­bly could, and then put my own spin on it.”

“I’m much more com­fort­able switch­ing from. brushes to play­ing with sticks with my. pan­deiro and my cow­bell. It’s all just. dif­fer­ent colours in my palette now”.

If you don’t know where you’re go­ing, you can al­ways use a TomTom

In ad­di­tion to his long ca­reer with Galac­tic, Stan­ton has built up a col­lec­tion of solo and side projects

Us­ing ei­ther an 18" or 26" bass drum gets Stan­ton the res­o­nance he’s look­ing for

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