Stanton Moore: Groove Alchemy

New Orleans jazz drummer Stanton Moore is ready to take you to school.

Stanton Moore

Groove Alchemy

Label: Telarc
US Release Date: 2010-04-13
UK Release Date: 2010-05-24
Label website
Artist website

Stanton Moore has time and again proven himself to be one funky drummer. He is something of a touchstone in jazz-funk these days, thanks to his skin work with Charlie Hunter, John Scofield, John Medeski, Dr. John, Galactic, and the list just goes on from there. He has spent at least a decade working his way into the big leagues, so now what? Well, here's one way to take it a step further: Approach your funky grooves academically. Moore's latest album, Groove Alchemy, simultaneously drops with an instructional DVD and book, dissecting his percussive approach for aspiring drummers.

It’s strange to think of funk music actually being "studied", since it's supposed to just be loose and fun, but things aren't that simple if you are a drummer. As a drummer, everyone relies on you to keep the tempo going, to not allow your confidence or concentration slip. This is important in rock bands, where the drummer is the backbone. But when it comes to the funky jazz coming out of New Orleans, the drummer is in the driver's seat. And I'm pretty sure they call shotgun too. Everyone else is in the back.

If you can't tell by this point, Groove Alchemy is all about the beats and rhythms, which is pretty obvious since it's meant to be a teaching tool. Bandmates Robert Walter (Hammond B3 organ, piano) and Will Bernard (guitar) are more than competent in their roles, and can certainly give an outfit like Medeski, Martin & Wood a run for their money. No one really busts out of these assignments either, making the trio sound like a Booker T. cover band that decided to write its own tunes.

There's still some cool things going on, though. The tracks "Pot Licker" and "Shiftless" are tense balls of energy that sound like they can’t be played any tighter, but somehow manage to give Moore some elbow room to flex his newfound meters. "Keep on Gwine", one of the album's covers, is nothing but straight-up, good old fashioned New Orleans tonk that can make the hardest of music cynics want to tap their toes (though it houses one of Moore's least imaginative drum solos).

Since most of Groove Alchemy finds itself in danger of wearing out its own grooves, it's worth mentioning that Moore and his trio change things up just slightly on the last two tracks. "Aletta" is a ballad of Turkish origin, written by Moore's father-in-law for Moore's wife. Not only is it different, since the guitar's melody is based on a non-Western scale, but the trio plays so softly in the last 20 seconds that you may think the song is over before it actually is. This stands in direct contrast to the first ten songs, where there was pretty much one dynamic throughout. Right after that is "He Stopped Loving Her Today", which made a lasting impression on Moore's childhood because his parents were such fans of the George Jones recording. The trio gives it a South Delta funeral feel, while maintaining the tune's country identity. Adding up to a mere five minutes, the final two tracks make for an odd yet delightful conclusion for an album meant to educate jazz drummers.

Aside from that though, Stanton Moore's trio doesn't attempt to cover any ground it hasn't before. The purpose of Groove Alchemy is to hone the skills and deepen the pocket of Moore's time-keeping. And if you are a percussionist yourself, you may learn something valuable in the process. If you want to just sit back and listen, this one's a head-bobber.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.