Listen to your heartbeat
VAIL – For Stanton Moore, playing the drums is like making good conversation.”Someone could have the best vocabulary in the world but if his speaking voice isn’t appealing or the way he presents it lacks a certain spark, no one wants to listen,” said the 33-year-old drummer for “steamroller funk” band Galactic. “Someone else could be straight from the street and have some kind of charisma that draws you in. Music is kind of intangible like that.”Moore, usually shrouded in dark clothing and his signature black glasses, is laid-back and mellow now. But stick him behind a drum kit and his soul turns inside out, the subtle sparkle behind his eyes becoming a raging passionate rhythm. He plays freely and unrehearsed, yet from years of rehearsal, discipline and method. You can’t help but watch him, like a piece of art, marveling quietly at the audibly “intangible.”Well-versed in the language of rhythm, Moore’s innovative voice is unmistakable. If you listen carefully, you’ll know where he’s come from. His first beatified memory reveals his mom taking him to the Mardi Gras parade when he was 3 years old, the sound of large snare drums getting louder and louder as the band marched down the street toward an ecstatic toddler. And now, the present Moore, whose grooves are filled with loops running through a comptortion pedal, liquifying his New Orleans past – African, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Haitian and European beats – in a modern electronic blender. And when he converses in his enlightened dialect, people listen. “I’ve tried to modernize the New Orleans tradition, starting with a pretty original palette and then putting the spin on it that no one has put on it before,” he said. “I hear so many drummers that sound so similar to each other.”When Moore’s not letting his beats unfurl on stage, he shares his knowledge and passion for New Orleans’ distinct rhythm with other drummers. Friday, before the band plays 8150 in Vail Village, Moore will stop at Vail Mountain School to host a master drum class based on his unique Crescent City style.”All those rhythms are very integral in modern music,” he said. “I like informing people of that. New Orleans street beats, second line and Mardi Gras crept into blues, rock ‘n’ roll, funk, jazz and everything on down the line. A lot of famous rhythms are connected to New Orleans in a way that people don’t always see or hear.”Take Led Zeppelin’s classic “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the famed drum intro was directly borrowed from Little Richard’s “Keep-A-Knockin,” Moore said.
“I can hopefully express some of the history of where the beats come from,” he said. “As well as the depth of the instrument and different ways to improve groove and time, which is the most important thing a drummer has to offer. A guy can sit down and play a groove and no one will dance. Another guy can sit down, play the same groove and fill the dance floor. It has something to do with the way that it’s played.” Ask him what makes a good drummer, and not oddly they are the qualities that Moore himself possesses.”I prefer to see drummers that exhibit a lot of passion as opposed to drummers who just sit there and play their parts of the song,” he said. “I like to see emotional investment, combined with a natural ability and charisma.”Dave Laub, music director at Vail Mountain School, learned about Moore’s master classes the last time the musician was in town playing with one of his side projects, “The Four of Us,” at 8150. Instrumental in relaunching the school’s music program last year, Laub is always searching for new ways to inspire his students and thought Moore might just be the ticket. “Stanton Moore’s one of the most prominent living drummers on the international groove, funk scene,” Laub said. “He’s not just one of those musicians who learned how everything’s done and that’s it. He’s promoting innovative ideas right now. I think it will have a very real impact on students to bring in a musician who’s young, who’s actually doing it and very successful.” It’s also Moore’s energy that Laub wants his students to witness. Saxophonist for local funksters, Flux5, Laub understands the power of live music.”I can describe it to students all I want, but nothing will replace seeing live energy. It’s just a really inspirational thing,” he said. “Most of my students that have gone on to pursue music have had some moment that they saw a concert that they can relate back to, one particular moment that inspired them to still be doing it 10 years later. I’ve had several of those moments.”Vail Mountain School seventh-grader John McKenna signed up for the class in hopes to improve his own drum skills.”Ever since I saw a drum set when I was in kindergarten, that’s all I wanted to do. The rhythm holds the beat of the whole band,” said the 13-year-old. “I’m really excited to see a pro drummer. I want to learn how to be a more fluent player and more smooth.”
McKenna has been playing percussion for three years and the drum set for a half of a year. He practices every day and has recently started a classical rock band with his friend, a guitar player. They’re still looking for a bass player.Moore’s advice to young players like McKenna?”For me, the primary goal should be to be able to replicate anything you hear and anything that pops into your head, anything you think of,” Moore said. “Now that’s going to take years and years of practice, private lessons, studying and developing. That’s the end, and the means to get there are different for different people.”Moore’s means are passion, dedication, necessity. Moore’s end – his heartbeat.”In the most traditional sense, percussion provides the heartbeat of the music,” he said. “Some people can provide a very static heartbeat, but me, I try to provide an interactive heartbeat. I’m very excited about what I do, and I feel very fortunate to do what I do and make a living. I look forward to playing every day.”Competing with the Milky WayGalactic drummer Stanton Moore master drum class7-8:30 p.m. Friday
Vail Mountain School$15 in advance; $17 at the doorCall Dave Laub at the school at 476-3850, ext. 231 for more informationThe Galactic show at 8150 Friday night is sold outStaff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14641, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado