Theryl DeClouet - vocals; Skerik - saxophone; Robert Mercurio - bass; Stanton Moore - drums; Jeff Raines - guitar; Richard Vogel - keyboards
Galactic, from the planet New Orleans, has kept the groove on the one ever since their inception in 1994. Vocalists may come and go, but the thing that remains consistent in Galactic's world is the funk: Whether it's jazz or rock-inspired, they just keep on doing it deeper and funkier and in the spirit of the Crescent City sound that inspires them. This set from 1999 recorded at the annual Mountain Aire Festival in Northern California showcases Galactic's special brand of Louisiana magic, from retro soul to free jazz horn jams. Delivering a taste of N'awlins to the West Coast on the cusp of summertime, the living is easy and Galactic's musical universe has arrived right on time.
Guitarist Jeff Raines and bassist Robert Mercurio, two childhood friends from DC, made the move to music city New Orleans as college students. They were inspired by the city's rich musical and culture heritage and specifically the sounds of its legendary artists in a particular groove: The Funky Meters, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and of course the great Professor Longhair whose spirit resides over the city's music scene and its central venue, Tipitina's. Eventually, the line-up solidified to include drummer Stanton Moore, Hammond organist Rich Vogel, and saxman Ben Ellman and so it has remained with a half dozen albums to follow. But back in the day, they also featured a vocalist, Theryl DeClouet, beginning with Coolin' Off, their recording debut in 1996 for San Francisco's indie Fog City Records label. They followed with Crazyhorse Mongoose (released through the revived Capricorn label in 1998) which earned them a spot on the Billboard jazz charts. Galactic was mid-tour with DeClouet in support of Crazyhorse Mongoose when they dropped this fireball of a set.
The very funky "Sweetback" is a showcase for Vogel's organ as well as Skerik's sax (Ellman attended a funeral this weekend and was absent from the gig). There are moments in the band's outerspace jams that pretty much explain why they're called Galactic, though they play it fairly straight on "Something's Wrong With This Picture" (from the Coolin' Off album)—a 13-minute super-jam—and "Start From Scratch," which is more of that that sweet funky stuff (dedicated by DeClouet to the "San Francisco crew"). "Love on the Run" however goes completely wild: It takes a central space in the set with its droning, almost Far Eastern sound which explodes into free-noise madness. Signing off with a 14-minute jam of "Crazyhorse Mongoose," the band from the galaxy of New Orleans leave the stage having gotten the laidback California crowd sufficiently funked-up. Call it mission accomplished.