Stanton Moore’s latest studio release, Groove Alchemy, is not just a solo album but rather one piece of a larger triumvirate: both literally, because his band performs as a trio of musicians throughout, but also because the 12-track effort is also part of a unique collection that includes an instructional video and a book. Each can be purchased separately, but they are thematically linked together. Recorded at Levon Helm’s studio in Woodstock, New York, Moore does The Bands’ former drummer proud by serving up a creative and dynamic mix of jazz and funk inspired tunes, well complimented by an accomplished supporting cast.
Indeed, it’s almost unfair that bandmates Robert Walter (organ, piano) and Will Bernard (guitar) don’t get any headline billing, because they add a crucial element to the performances and even had a hand in composing some of the songs. Walter shows his flair as a band leader (of his 20th Congress) by starting off several of the tunes like “Pie Eyed Manc,” “Keep On Gwine,” and “Cleanse This House” himself, leading Moore into situations where his percussive skills and creativity can flourish. Grammy winner Bernard maintains a subtle but steady rhythm on guitar throughout, particularly on tunes like “Knocker” and “Up To Here,” even throwing in some nice bass lines to compliment his skillful fretwork.
That’s not to say that Moore himself doesn’t have several signature tracks on the album; “Shiftless” is a freewheeling song that shows his strength and depth of technique on the skins. It’s just a testament to Moore’s vision of a solo album that he did not fill every track with percussion so overwhelming to the detriment of his other players. Moore clearly knows that he is just as strong as the backbeat as he is out in front playing lead. The contrasting styles between tracks on the album is also evident in the last two tracks, the dark and foreboding “Aletta” and the wistful “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
Overall, Groove Alchemy is a very creative album that contains excellent collaboration between Moore, Walter, and Bernard, much as the title implies. Fans of jazz and funk should enjoy the album, whether they know the players from previous projects (Galactic, Greyboy Allstars, TJ Kirk) or if they are being exposed to the musicians for the first time. Although the book and DVD are not included in this review, the music of the album is an inviting appetizer to lead the curious into those pieces of work as well.
Groove Alchemy is out now on Telarc Records.