Jazz has a long and valued tradition of musicians facing off against each other: saxophonists Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins in the barrooms of 1930s Kansas City; Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray's tenor battle on the song "The Hunt," which found its way into Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Drummers Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa's legendary face-offs included The Drum Battle, released on Verve in 1952.
Higgins says that the Jazz Fest match was originally the idea of Dirty Dozen trumpeter Gregory Davis, who books the acts at the Jazz Tent. "I was looking to get some work and get playing, and Davis said that he could do two drummers, and he suggested Stanton and me," Higgins says. "I thought that was cool because Stanton and I are good friends and there is a cool vibe."
The two drummers' styles complement each other. "We're both entrenched in the funk and have done our homework on other styles," Moore says. "We're both trying to do something new. I'm doing stuff with loops. He's trying to work with triggers and sounds and pads. Also, we both live in Algiers."
For Jazz Fest, each band will alternate songs, starting off with originals and then covering the New Orleans standard "Magnolia Triangle," by James Black. Moore is particularly excited to be playing this tune. "It's a standard, but not everybody plays it. It's not like we're doing another version of "Caravan.' Magnolia Triangle is relevant to New Orleans drummers, and it's a challenging tune. And we've got to give props to our man James Black."
After that, the drummers will do a duet before they bring on their bands for a finale. Higgins says his band -- David Torkanowsky on piano, Chris Severin on bass, Maurice Brown on trumpet and Clarence Johnson III on saxophone -- is up to the challenge. "It's Jazz Fest." he says, "I've got to bring out the heavyweights." To counter, Moore is bringing out his A-list: Brian Coogan on the organ, Brian Seeger on guitar, Tim Green on saxophone and Bonerama leader Mark Mullins on trombone. Moore says he is confident that this will be a memorable set. "It's a conversation," he says. "It's like when you get together with an old buddy and you talk about something that means a lot to you."