Sonic DNA: Stanton Moore and Anthony Brown

They know where music comes from
By JON GARELICK  |  September 14, 2010

THE BEAT DOCTOR: Coming from a marching-band background, says Moore, “and being really hyperactive, I had a tendency to play really hard.”

Music is mystery, maybe, but for some of us that conceit is a provocation for deep-nerdy investigation. How does drummer Billy Higgins get that groove — at once pure swing and pure funk — in Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder”? How does Mark Turner get up so high on the tenor saxophone and stay up there, keeping it clean, pure, and pretty? What the hell is Bootsy Collins doing on “Sex Machine” anyway?

So back in April, when I was at an Instruments A Comin’ charity event at Tipitina’s in New Orleans, I picked up a drum instructional book in the auction tent and read this line about funk-drum deity Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste: “As much as Zig is revered, I find that his playing is often misunderstood and misinterpreted.” That was like catnip to me. Misunderstood? Misinterpreted? The inventor of the “Cissy Strut” beat? What’s to understand? Doesn’t that shit just come directly from God?

Not exactly. It turns out that a lot of drummers mess up — excuse me, misinterpret — Zigaboo’s 3-2 clave-based beat by playing the hi-hat with just one hand, whereas Zigaboo “played this beat with both hands on the hi-hat . . . gasp!”

The author of that instructive gasp is Stanton Moore, co-founder of New Orleans rhythm-and-horns funk band Galactic, founding member of experimental jazz-rock-funk band Garage A Trois, and leader of his own trio, which he brings to the Paradise on Tuesday.

Moore, at 38, has come in for his own share of reverence. In a city renowned for its lineage of great drummers — from early-jazz master Baby Dodds to hard-bop and avant-garde geniuses like Idris Muhammad and Ed Blackwell to funk legends like Zigaboo and Johnny Vidacovich — Moore can hold his own. Skipping through his discography, you can hear power, finesse, and facility with hip-hop, drum ’n’ bass, and other studio-derived beats. On Galactic’s “Second and Dryades” (from 2007’s From the Corner to the Block), check out the way Moore and Galactic saxophonist/producer Ben Ellman create a beat that’s as much hip-hop as it is second-line Mardi Gras Indian chant (Big Chief Monk Boudreaux does the vocals) with little more than the perfect deployment of bass drum and cowbell. Or listen to the way he lays the foundation for his trio (with B3 keyboardist Robert Walter and guitarist Will Bernard) on the noirish groove of “Wissions (of Vu),” from their 2008 Emphasis (on Parenthesis). Or Moore’s Clyde Stubblefield shoop-blam on “Squash Blossom,” the opener on the trio’s new Groove Alchemy (Telarc) — which also happens to be the title of the new book and accompanying DVD. (Moore brings Bernard, organist Wil Blades, and guest guitarist Anders Osbourne to the Paradise.)

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