Conversations is the first straight jazz date led by drummer Stanton Moore, who is best known as the kit man for NOLA jam-funk powerhouse Galactic. He is no stranger to jazz; he plays it in hybrid form with the Garage a Trois quartet but they play lots of other music too. Here Moore is in the company of two New Orleans jazz veterans: bassist James Singleton and pianist David Torkanowsky. The drummer took lessons from the Crescent City's celebrated Kenny Washington to up his chops for this group. And it is a group. They formed to play a weekly club gig at Snug's Harbor in 2012 and have been doing so ever since. The program is almost exclusively comprised of tunes by New Orleans composers -- and the personnel -- with one notable exception, Herbie Hancock's blues "Driftin'," onto which Torkanowsky grafted a strolling, striding, James Booker-inspired intro. The swing quotient here is high. Though all the material is straight-ahead jazz, it purposely reflects the city's tradition. On "Carnival," a Mardi-Gras second-line groover led by a martial drum solo intro, the rolling, marching terrain gets nearly modal in the midsection and the drummer's tom toms employ wonderful breaks and Latin tinges while the pianist weaves elegant harmonic s flourishes into the funky changes. "Waltz for All Souls" is an elegiac ballad with gorgeous arco work in the midsection from Singleton. Moore's playing reflects the funeral parade marchers as Torkanowsky brings forth the gospel tradition. Even in the bluesy, swinging post-hard bop of "In the Keyhole," whose melody reflects the Horace Silver trio, one can hear the influence of Professor Longhair's groove quotient amid the syncopation, knotty rim shots, and fingerpopping bassline. Moore offers not only in-the-pocket flair, but ample imagination. His interaction with Torkanowsky shines on opener "Lauren Z," where his rolls and fills accent Singleton's thrumming groove pulse and push the pianist to fully employ fluid, fleet, mid-high register ostinatos. There is a substantial neo-bop flair in the funky "Big Greaze," and the pianist's assured runs and improvising acumen lead the conversation into compelling terrain. The reading of standard "Paul Barbarin's Second Line" is anything but rote. The complex interplay between Singleton and Moore opens the gates for Torkanowsky to explore the ranges of the tune's harmonics. Conversations is well balanced, beautifully played and musically engaging throughout. While it will be interesting to note the reactions of jam band and Galactic fans, jazz listeners will find much to enjoy here.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek