Stanton Moore, born in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, can, at this point, proudly take his place as the best and most prolific drummer of the last 20 years. Since his recording career started in 1996 with Galactic, Moore has played drums and composed music on 18 different albums, the sort of production record Jack White and Ryan Adams would have to bow down to.
Moore began his career playing funk and something almost resembling traditional jazz. Beginning in the late ’90s, he joined up with local heroes from Brooklyn (keyboardist Marco Benevento), Seattle (sax player Skerix) for a musical experiment that can best be described as jazz-punk. If you ever wondered what a band might sound like if they decided to replace a guitar player with a vibraphone/tabla player (Texas-based punk Mike Dillon) and repeatedly switched who was playing the rhythm between every player on stage, well then you get the creature that is Garage a Trois.
Garage a Trois thrives off of being bizarre in every possible way, from the purely manic faces of their sax player to rhythms that are not quite danceable and not quite moshable. Still you will feel the need to make some sort of herky jerk movement as you hear them. And you will enjoy them all the same. They represent the anarchic possibilities of jazz in the 21st century, and brought down the house for anyone that needed to get out some loose energy before settling in for an evening with Jackson Browne.
No great video of their show from Floydfest, so here’s them at the Brooklyn Bowl last year.
Outside of this band, Moore has his own solo band and a distinguished solo career, but really his rep begins and ends with Galactic. And in particular, their music of the last four years represents everything that the music scene is capable of going into 2012.
The Old, New, and the World- Galactic’s role in the New Orleans Music Scene
No American city has a musical culture quite like New Orleans. It is a scene deeply in love with the glorious past of American music. Jazz and blues reign supreme, and have informed the music of the present in beautiful ways.
There is no music scene so deeply connected to its own past and culture.
You can see different aspects of that culture on a Friday night out, depending on when you get out of the house. Leave at 7 (or wander the French Quarter during the day) and you will see a celebration of its glorious past. Clubs ring with trumpets and soulful voices singing jazz and soul ballads or dance tunes. Armstrong and Toussaint rule the dinner hour. You could see the Preservation Hall Jazz Band down on Bourbon Street or John Boutte at DBA, and get a sample of this sort of music. Go out around 10, though, and you just might see the brass bands come out, playing a mixture of funk and hip-hop and intent on making the party happen. This is music for going out, and in many ways it represents the music of the present. Expect to hear covers of Gaga, Jay-Z, Beyonce, or whatever the song of the summer is. These musicians are quick to learn and eager to please. And expect few breaks, as these guys jump in the best go-go funk jams you’ll ever hear. With any luck, Soul Rebels or Rebirth will be in town putting this sort of show on.
Get out between 11 and 1 though, and you’ll hopefully see the DJs come out, and maybe even rappers from the bounce scene make their first appearance.
Under Stanton Moore’s leadership behind the drums, Galactic has done what every great NOLA musician has done for the last 100 years; blend the old with the new to create a sound wholly their own. And with any luck, their fusion of funk, bounce, jazz, Latin, and occasional electronic flourishes will become the sound of clubs and arenas from Manhattan to L.A.
2010’s Ya-ka-may got this trend started with a guest star filled tribute to bounce and R&B. Galactic provided the rhythmic base for guest stars from across the New Orleans landscape, including legends like Toussaint and Irma Thomas (stealing the show with a burning rendition of Heart of Steel), rising stars John Boutte (who you know better as the singer of the Treme theme song) and Rebirth, and finally MCs of the local bounce scene (and the queer hip-hop scene known as cissy bounce) for a unique funk-jazz-hip hop fusion that dominated the local scene in 2010. Galactic proved definitively that a live band could not only put a show but get people of all backgrounds out of their seats and dancing.
In 2012, they did it again with a celebration of the history of Mardi Gras, Carnivale Electricos. This time, the arrangements are just a little bit tighter, the compositions that much more creative, and the beats just electronic enough that they’ll be at home in any hipster bar. This time around, the band explores the Mardi Gras celebration as it is done throughout the northern and southern hemisphere. This album includes the Mardi Gras Indian chants of black New Orleans, the mainstream rock that you might find on Bourbon Street (courtesy of another great NOLA band, the Revivalists), a classic rhythm & blues tune courtesy of the Neville Family, the sounds of the bayou thanks to a sample of zydeco great Clifton Chenier, and of course the sounds of Central and South America, culminating with a terrific Portuguese tune to close out the celebration. Galactic couldn’t depart, though, without making their own instrumental statement, and so they close with an ode to the hangover of Ash Wednesday that recalls Miles Davis circa Bitches Brew.
Now this sort of album could sound somewhat haphazard or chaotic. Yet it all sounds like one album, courtesy of fantastic arrangements by the band at the center and a magnificent production that brings every form of music into the year 2012 with everything that represents. If you know this music, you will catch all the wonderful subtleties and history on display here. If not, well, you will still want to shake your ass for hours with this album while still pissing off your grandparents or downstairs neighbor. If you like the Neville Brothers, you’ll like this album, but if you like TV on the Radio, you will love this album.
They posted a great music video earlier this year featuring images from Mardi Gras celebrations all through the years.
So what’s a traveling funk band to do if they can’t convince a half dozen singers and a high school marching band to join them for every gig? Why you recruit Corey Glover of Living Colour of course? And maybe get Corey Henry from Rebirth to jump on board? And hey if Garage a Trois happens to be in the same town at the same time, get that tabla player on board.
And thus we have the magic of a Galactic show at Floydfest in 2012. If Sara Watkins and Jackson Browne represented the folkier side of Floydfest where the older folks and the hippies got into a sway, then Galactic represented the other side of Floydfest, where a wide array of younger folks got their bump and grind on. They kicked off that Thursday night with a high octane set that ran through all the best tracks of their last two albums. These rhythms were deep and adventurous, and you just had to move when you heard them. Throw in a 10 minute drum solo and a surprise encore of Sympathy for the Devil, and you had an epic closer to the mainstage action at night one at Floydfest.
And a good omen to come. More folk and funk on the way from Floydfest very shortly. Don’t take my word on this live show. Check it here. The video is a little shaky but this is a decent clip from the show I saw.