Ahead of the release of his new album ‘With You In Mind’, Galactic drummer Stanton Moore has released another new track from the upcoming release, due out July 28th via Cool Green Recordings/Mascot Label Group.
Java is one of two instrumentals on the album, both of which feature Nicholas Payton and Donald Harrison, two of New Orleans’s most eminent Jazz thinkers. Speaking about the track, more explains “We went into the studio and then we found out that Allen had passed… It didn’t feel right to not acknowledge his passing. So we said you know we’ve got to do something in tribute. We wanted to focus on his compositions and spotlight them in the best way… The idea was not just to rehash these tunes, because who can do it better than Allen already did it. This is a very special project and is a true musical collaboration, I’ve heard Tork say being in new Orleans is like having access to the most amazing musical tool box you could ever possibly imagine. So we just dug into that tool box…. We said, alright let’s pull this out, This tune needs a vocalist, who should we call? Let’s call Cyril Neville. He wound up singing on 5 tunes. Another example is my snare drum street beat stuff… I’ve developed my approach to Second Line by mixing Johnny Vidacovich, Herlin Riley and Shannon Powell. But I don’t want to just steal from those guys and steal their thing. I want to study it to the point where I can turn all that off and then make a blend of it. So on “Java” that’s pretty much a blend of what I’ve naturally absorbed from borrowing from those guys. This project is truly a group collaboration, all these friends showed up for us and the record, I’m super excited about it, it’s coming out July 21st.”
Besides his solo projects, studio and TV work, and teaching, Stanton Moore is the drummer of Galactic, the funky New Orleans conglomeration now in its third decade of touring, and he still finds time to record and travel as a trio with David “Tork” Torkanowsky (keys) and James Singleton (bass). Like Moore, Tork and Singleton are in high demand, so it takes some lead time to clear everybody’s schedule. They’re both first-call players with ridiculously long resumes and long apprenticeships under departed masters, both composers, both deeply rooted in New Orleans.
The trio had a new record ready, they thought. But then, “a couple of days before we were supposed to start recording,” says Moore, “Allen Toussaint passed.”
Toussaint’s sudden death on November 10, 2015 (in Madrid, far from home, of a heart attack, after playing a concert) shocked the city. The polymath New Orleans producer, songwriter, arranger, bandleader, pianist, singer, and all-around figure of elegance had been a vital, active presence in New Orleans since the 1950s.
The three musicians immediately shelved their planned album and went into creative hyperdrive. “We already had studio time booked, we couldn’t wait,” Moore recalls. “It’s not like we wrote out all these arrangements ahead of time. We were flying by the seat of our pants.”
As they began working up pieces of Toussaint’s vast repertoire, it quickly became a vocal album with guest singers. “As Tork likes to say,” Moore comments, “being a musician in New Orleans is like having the greatest musical toolbox at your disposal.” Supplementing their trio with some of New Orleans’s living legends – their friends — they reimagined Toussaint’s songs, conceptualizing and building out an album on the fly.
New Orleans music doesn’t recognize genre boundaries, so With You In Mind crosses effortlessly from funk to jazz and back. Two of New Orleans’s most eminent jazz thinkers, Nicholas Payton and Donald Harrison, appear on two instrumentals. The first is a version of “Java,” which became a top-5 hit for Al Hirt in 1963 and the other is “Riverboat,” Toussaint’s 1960 record with Lee Dorsey (which also doubles as an homage to the session’s original drummer, one of Moore’s heroes, James Black).
With You in Mind: The Songs of Allen Toussaint is built on the livest grooves the trio could deliver. It was a bittersweet project for all concerned, celebrating the memory of someone whose living presence was so important. “I didn’t get to work with Allen as often as I’d have liked to,” Moore says, “but I did get to.” Their friendship went back twenty years. Through the years we crossed paths a few times. The first time he played with us was also the first time we played the Saenger Theater,” referring to the 2,600-seat New Orleans landmark.
“Allen Toussaint wrote the soundtrack to New Orleans,” says Moore. “He came out of an environment that no longer exists. The level of talent and ability and artistry that he embodied – we won’t see this again.”
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