Stanton & I enjoyed BBQ steak at brucewittet.com HQ. Visits basement drum room and wails. Then real tempest hits…
July 17, 2011, Ottawa, Canada: Drummer Stanton Moore, who was in Canada’s capital city to headline the Ottawa Blues Fest with his long time band Galactic, gave the clinic of his life that afternoon. Seriously, just about everybody I talked to, from host Dave Dudley and Matt Ouimet (who opened the performance with a klezmer band led by local hero Mike Essoudry) to everybody who approached me post-clinic, were raving. I’ve seen nothing like this since Roy Burns (now head of Aquarian Drumheads Inc.) came to town circa 1974 and knocked everybody’s socks off. Roy was on a clinic tour arranged by the now defunct Rogers Drum Company.
Stanton blew through this city like the storm of the century, which hit at 7:00pm the same night, literally demolishing the main stage and blowing out the Galactic performance. Stanton dissected Ziggy Modeliste’s performance on The Meters’ “Sissy Strut”, setting the record straight regarding the 2-hand approach. Stanton began with the basic 16th-notes R L R L and then added the snare backbeats/anticipations, thus subtracting here and there from the hi-hat part in probably the most lucid explanation of a drumming event I have heard, bar none.
The thing about Stanton is that he’s a fiercely loyal New Orleans citizen who takes every opportunity to laud the great drummers, such as Earl Palmer, Ziggy, John V (Stanton’s mentor), and the great James Black.
The latter figures prominently in my report. Stanton concluded his clinic with a give-away, first T shirts and sticks leading up to the grand prize, a new model Gretsch metal snare drum (not the titanium Stanton Moore Drum Company model). Stanton would play tunes through the PA system and the first person to guess correctly would win. The final question stumped the audience after a few failed attempts. I knew the answer but, just to check, I approached the stage (I’d been wandering around photographing for the sponsor and my fave drum shop, outside of Ray Fransen’s in New Orleans, www.davesdrumshop.com) and mimed to Stanton, James Black, right? He announced through the mic, “Bruce’s has got it…” but I signaled to him with a crossing of the arms in an X not to consider the notion. Give the thing to some deserving player. I dunno, had it been Stanton’s own drum, maybe I’d be selfish….
Stanton and I go way back to Modern Drummer days and we share an eternal friendship with my boss, the MD editor in chief, now deceased, Bill Miller. So after the clinic I drove him over to my house for a BBQ and we caught up.
Down in my drum room it was a repeat performance. Stanton is a rollicking, loose drummer by choice who can play tighter than a duck’s … beak when necessary. I’ve never, ever seen anybody demonstrate brush patterns so well and eloquently. He did Papa Jo proud, and Philly Joe and Elvin, too (“completing the Jones Trinity”). Add to that list Jeff Hamilton, Johnny V, and others. Cool thing is that Stanton really gets deep into each of the heritage drummers.
There are many in Ottawa, Canada, subsequent to this clinic, who are saying that Stanton Moore takes his place among such legends. Stanton’d be the first to dismiss it. All I can say is that if he keeps steaming ahead on the same track he’ll be, at very least, within spitting distance.
In my drum room, we were discussing this notion of the universality of certain rhythms, such as the Stuff drum groove on Sun Song. It’s basically 16th notes on closed hats, occasionally opened for accents, the key being the offbeat accent every 3rd 16th note. This is incredibly hard to do well and I can do it pretty well (after 3 months of dedicated work). Stanton plopped down on my green abalone “Hagi kit” and tossed it off, then demonstrated more syncopated extrapolations, putting me in my place as pal to pal. This led to his reference to Tony Allen.
The guy, meaning Stanton, is a great clinician and a master player. I know a good portion of the Galactic repertoire, enough to sing you some of the tunes, and I can think of no better drummer for the band, not to mention Stanton’s Garage-a-Trois or his many other ensembles, including his guest nights in LA, where he resides in summer time and where he’s cut some amazing film soundtracks.
So I warm up the car and drive Stanton and his cymbals to his hotel downtown, where he’s to meet with the band members for their customary van ride to the show, except that it’s raining cats and dogs by the time we get there. The wind is blowing rain faster than the wipers can handle and I almost miss the two signs blown over and blocking the road.
It’s really too bad the word hadn’t come sooner, with respect to eager Galactic fans who were disappointed at the collapse of the center stage and non-appearance of their favorite band, because I could have hung with him, and learned buckets, and drank some wine, perhaps not in buckets, had he stayed on. As it was, we were all lucky to come out of the storm unscathed, which the weather station later described in this fashion: “Had the winds been swirling like a funnel, it would have been a tornado. The winds were gusting at that speed.” As it was, we had to settle for a mini-tornado. And capital cities being capital cities, meaning policy rules, they had to launch an inquiry next day on the cause of the stage collapse. Duh…..
I’d gigged outside 5 weeks previous and been slammed by a similar storm that came from nowhere. Our stage was smaller but the outcome was the same: my drums toppled, the Stratocasters bit the concrete, and one of those big PA speakers on stilts came down on my back, fortunately at an extreme angle like a ski slope; otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.
Two extra hours with Stanton following the Daves Drum Shop clinic were gravy. Icing. Hell, what would they say in New Orleans? Says Stanton, referring to New Orleans speak, pursuant to my email query a day later, “We would say in New Orleans lagniappe (a little somethin’ extra)“. It was, indeed, for me. At my age, it’s such a treat to meet up with an old friend who can teach me new tricks.
Enjoy the pics. Stanton: great to see you!Cyndi agrees. You could have had more steak; you were polite; I could tell.
Honest Stanton, I didn’t plant the James Black/Yusef Lateef disk that was spinning the car stereo. I swear, it’s been there for a couple of months: you know, driving music.
Tbw July, 2011
Footnote: Stanton’s amazing “old K and then some” cymbal sounds: are you listening Michael B?
Regarding your cymbal sound at the clinic, about which I’ve received 2 phone calls since your performance, and about which I am in awe and envy, I just want to render a compliment to you and to Michael B, who, I’m told, despises me. I mean, it’s great to be noticed, even if the assumption is that I am in the pocket of Zildjian Company, or maybe Sabian, despite having resigned a Sabian endorsement deal over a decade ago—and revealing all about my relationship (oohhh!) with Nort Hargrove (Sabian) and Paul Francis (Zildjian), the 2 greatest cymbal smiths in America if not beyond. Those 2 know their shit, pardon my French given I’m from Canada. Back to your cymbal sound and feel, Stanton, perfection! Readers can view same at http://www.bosphoruscymbals.com/, taking note of my favorites, the left hand crash, I believe some kinda “smash crash” if memory serves; and, of course, that 22” ride, which were killing. I feel validated, having accorded the Stanton Moore series 5-stars in a Modern Drummer review when those were released. At that time, I got complaints I was being stroked by Bosphorus. I just call it the way I see it (and play it), which is my mandate at www.tbrucewittet.com Speaking of which, I never knew your endorser David Kemper toured with Focus! Saw them back when I was forging tickets into concerts I couldn’t afford.
Excuse me while I kiss….