Drummer, composer and bandleader Stanton Moore has a well-deserved reputation for diversity. Besides being a founding member of New Orleans powerhouse jazz-funkmaster Galactic, he's played with Corrosion of Conformity, jammed with other traditional New Orleans R&B and jazz groups, and issued three fine albums as leader. On Emphasis! On Parenthesis, Moore is playing with guitarist Will Bernard and keyboardist Robert Walter, a pair of top-flight collaborators he's worked with in various settings in the past -- in particular ...
Drummer, composer and bandleader Stanton Moore has a well-deserved reputation for diversity. Besides being a founding member of New Orleans powerhouse jazz-funkmaster Galactic, he's played with Corrosion of Conformity, jammed with other traditional New Orleans R&B and jazz groups, and issued three fine albums as leader. On Emphasis! On Parenthesis, Moore is playing with guitarist Will Bernard and keyboardist Robert Walter, a pair of top-flight collaborators he's worked with in various settings in the past -- in particular on his third album simply called III. Of course the trio isn't new to Moore by any stretch. He also records with Skerik and guitarist Charlie Hunter under the Garage a Trois moniker. The album's 11 tracks all contain titles with parenthetical statements -- it is an acknowledgement of the gentle ribbing from his Galactic bandmates that he slips parentheses into the name of almost every tune he writes. In some ways the music reflects this; each of these tunes has extensions in it, where the riff or groove starts and gets grafted onto continually with other musical statements, transforming the original vamp, groove, or riff into a more complex and varied composition. This is possible because of the incredible balance in this group. The trio setting doesn't provide the same problems as a quartet or quintet, but it also doesn't provide the safety net. Certainly Moore's breakbeat crazy, full-force kit work is up in the mix as it should be for such a rhythmically complex groove record. He's certainly the bandleader and he composed the tunes, but this isn't a showcase for his drumming. Bernard and Walter are stellar partners. Bernard is one of the most well-respected guitarists among musicians, but he's a low profile cat who is almost unknown to all guitar freaks. Walter's profile is lower still. It makes them perfect for a date like this where everybody shines all the time.Take the funky New Orleans strut-funk that is "(Late Night at The) Maple Leaf." The cut was developed from Moore's basslines out of a jam he and Walter played with Meters' bassist George Porter. Some chunky yet slinky B-3 chords by Walter dictate its opening groove, followed by funky guitar chords in backbeat driven by a 5/8 stuttering break tempo set by Moore. It is reminiscent of the Meters but layers interlocking step grooves into odd codas, middle fours, and turnarounds. A boogie-woogie piano is layered on top of a bassline played by Walter on the clavinet and morphs itself into a smoking bluesy solo (made up almost entirely of chord runs) before Bernard moves his knotty, jazzed-up guitar lines dead center for a break. "(Proper) Gander" is almost pure voodoo funk propelled by nasty chords and tom-tom rim shots that get turned into a drunken swaggering steamy groove by Bernard's twinned guitar lines.Spy flick funk is what drives "(Wissions Of) Vu," propelled by a clavinet à la Herbie Hancock's Headhunters and an off-kilter toy piano. Bernard plays his best John Barry styled-film guitar line, and Moore makes the whole thing choogle. The most overtly jazz thing here is the following fourth cut "(Sifting Through The) African Diaspora." There are some jagged hard bop lines juxtaposed against funky breaks, fluid harmonic shifts and changes, and some stellar organ and guitar work moving tonal palettes through a rainbow of shades and colors. Working through a series of stretched minors and sevenths, this cut never loses its swing even at its most start-and-stop, and then slips into serious John Patton murk terrain, digging through the blues and groove bags before moving out towards somewhere on the frontier. It's one of the finest things here and easily the most adventurous, going through so many shapes and shifts and turns that it's difficult to even remember where it began. Another standout is the choppy, late-night soulful "(Smell My) Special Ingredients," that slips Fela styled Afro-funk backbeats and rock dynamics à la the Jeff Beck Group into.