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It takes a special kind of drummer to be a leader. Maybe a nervy one. There's the temptation to grandstand with showy over-domination or remain buried in a rhythm section and let someone else take the honors. The most successful drummer-leaders are either innovative melodists like Art Blakey, Shelly Manne and Tony Williams. Or they're artful percussionists like Louis Bellson, Chico Hamilton or Leon Parker.
Then there's Stanton Moore. As a New Orleans native, he's grown up on the Mardi Gras gumbo of the Meters and Professor Longhair. But as a drummer, he digs deep into the boogaloo bayou of James Brown and Lou Donaldson. He clearly does not believe drumming merely keeps time. When Moore motivates, you'll start moving. Actually, he makes it seem inhuman to sit still.
In other interesting spheres, Moore ignites the New Orleans Klezmer All Stars and scales the charts as a founding member of the popular funk band, Galactic. With All Kooked Out, the young drummer steps out on his own. This excellent debut offers Moore entrance to the funk pantheon (your hosts, Melvin Parker, Bernard Purdie, Idris Muhammad and Harvey Mason) and places him firmly in the same contemporary league of royalty heretofore occupied only by MMW's highly esteemed Billy Martin.
Unlike Galactic's keyboard-driven groove and occasional vocals, Moore opts for an all-instrumental guitar-sax groove on All Kooked Out. As he does elsewhere, he keeps it pretty simple- riding the snare, bass and occasional cymbal - but always with engaging funk at the source. Drum solos are kept to a minimum. But, thankfully, they're always in the context rather at the expense of the music.
Moore's real coup is recruiting guitarist Charlie Hunter for this party. Hunter adds the rhythmic kick and the melodic groove that gives Moore's beat real substance. Somehow, Hunter manages an eight-string guitar, giving him the ability to play bass and guitar parts at the same time. With a special attachment, he can even make his guitar sound like a Hammond B-3 organ. Hunter, who's paired less interestingly with Leon Parker on his latest Blue Note release, Duo, proffers a formidable partnership with Moore. The two like-minded hipsters display much interchange, well worth hearing: at least for those who think funk offers something of value.
A basic trio (supplemented at times by a small cast of New Orleans all stars including Galactic Matt Pierce on tuba and former Sun Ra trumpeter Michael Ray) is rounded out by the wacky, yet appealing John Zorn saxophonics of Skerik (doin' the Harold Alexander thing).
It's an exceedingly winning combination too. Plenty of shining is heard throughout, notably on the brass band boogie of "Blues for Ben" (a great millennial party tune and a choice slice of Hunter in Wes-meets-Grant mode), John Patton's "Boogaloo Boogie" (an ideal showcase for Hunter's amazing, tuneful facility), the date's lone ballad , the beautiful "Honey Island," and the nice surprise of Dudu Pakwana's "Angel Nemali" (Skerik's best moment).
All the while, the drummer puts out, completely in charge. No need to worry about giving this drummer some, he's earning every bit. Name check his influences as you grind through the Lou Donaldson rock of "Common Ground," Monk's clunky and chunky "Green Chimneys," and the James Brown jambalaya of "Nalgas," one of several memorable group originals/jams. Throughout, Moore keeps it funky. And since he keeps the environment limited to mostly just guitar-sax-drums - allowing truly excellent musicanship throughout - he winds up with something that ranks among the year's finer jazz releases.
So does funk make for good jazz? Hard to say. Some people just don't want to have fun. They're the ones who think something catchy has nothing to say. Stanton Moore knows better. Those who hear him will surely agree. And those who groove to All Kooked Out will be all the richer for it.
Songs:Tchfunkta, Common Ground, Green Chimneys (by Thelonious Monk), Nalgas, Kooks on Parade, Blues For Ben, Witch Doctor, Boogaloo Boogie, Stanton Hits The Bottle, Nobodys Blues, Farmstead Antiques, Angel Nemali, Honey Island.
Players:Stanton Moore: drums & percussion; Charlie Hunter: eight-string guitar; Skerik: tenor and baritone saxophones: Matt Perrine: tuba: Brent Rose: tenor sax, soprano sax; Brian Seeger: guitar; Ben Ellman: tenor sax; Michael Ray: trumpet; Craig Klein: trombone.