Angelo Moore, the exuberant saxophonist, vocalist, and original member of the alternative ska, reggae and punk band Fishbone, moves in only a slightly more modern direction on his newest project, the Brand New Step. As heard on the group’s latest release, Centuries of Heat, Moore hasn’t drifted too far from his style fronting Fishbone or, for that matter, from the music he listened to in his youth.
“A lot of soul and a lot of jazz was goin’ on when I was growing up,” says the 53-year-old Los Angeles resident, who namedrops artists like James Brown, Funkadelic, the Ohio Players, and Louis Jordan. “When the ’80s came around, I started listening to a lot of ska, punk rock, and reggae.”
Moore, whose father played sax with Count Basie, met guitarist Kris Jensen during a question and answer segment following a screening of the documentary, Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. “He said, ‘Hey, you want to play some music together?’” says Moore, who later traveled to San Francisco to hook up with Jensen and keyboardist Jim Greer, who were to become the core members of the Brand New Step. “Yeah, I’ll try anything once.” says Moore, an adventurous soul who has also recorded his poetry under the moniker of Dr. Madd Vibe. “I’m always looking for a brand new step.”
Since 2014, the BNS has recorded two albums, released several videos, went on tour, and even made a stop in New Orleans last year.
“The only thing I wasn’t warmed up to was the use of tracks while the band was playing,” Moore confesses. “That was a new verse for me. To me that was a no-no. I’m the guy in the back of the room where, if a band is using tracks, I’m the first one to [figuratively] throw a can at the deejay’s head and say, ‘Come on, you don’t need some damn tracks, you have a band playing your shit.’” In a quest to expand his horizons, the audacious Moore decided he’d just have to figure out a way to use the tracks in a way that would sound good, and that wouldn’t compromise his integrity.”
Brand New Step definitely accomplishes the goal of having the band as the main foundation on Centuries of Heat, making this album a ton of musical fun. On original material written by Jensen and Greer with lyrics penned by Moore, the sounds and grooves feel informed by the likes of P-Funk (“Decompression”) and James Brown (“Booty Bang”). The record even opens with a clearly old-school number, “Gratitude,” on which Moore blows some expressive sax, offers his stunning falsetto, and provides all the vocal harmonies.
“It’s definitely dance music for sure,” Moore agrees. “I always say it’s got a disco ball hanging over it. I get to do my interpretation of disco—it’s funky and it’s soulful.”
Moore and company also offer a reggae beat on the album’s title cut, along with a socially conscious message in its lyrics, “Take a little step to the East for freedom and peace…”
“Ska and reggae have always been the right kind of platforms to put controversial lyrics over—politically, socially aware,” Moore says. “Especially ska, you can get a little more angry with ska.”
As he has demonstrated for decades with Fishbone, Moore has what it takes to be a great frontman—musicianship, a sense of style, and sharp showmanship.
“Oh yeah, people need entertainment to free their minds from the bondage that society puts on us,” Moore says. “You need to be out of your mind a little bit sometimes, because creativity comes from being free-minded and free-spirited. People can express themselves vicariously through you as an entertainer.”
Moore looks the part too, his often eye-catching attire boasting his own, individual flair. “I’ve always liked eclectic fashion,” says Moore, who laughingly adds that, as a youth he didn’t need a Ken doll; he dressed himself up. “I put plaid with polka dots, and when people call that ‘too busy,’ I say ‘It matches because it’s busy.’”
Moore acknowledges that he, Dr. Madd Vibe, Jensen (the “mellow, stony” guitarist), and Greer who supplies keyboards, beats and samples, have what he considers vastly different approaches. “I like genre mixing, and Dr. Madd Vibe makes it a little more dangerous. That’s what doctors do, they go in there and Frankenstein some shit together.”
The saxophonist and vocalist is no stranger to New Orleans or its musicians. He performed with Fishbone at the 2008 Voodoo Fest, and previously with the group at Jazz Fest in 2005. A band noted for its collaborations, the Brand New Step called on Galactic’s drummer Stanton Moore to play on Centuries of Heat, and all of the members of Galactic plus Preservation Hall’s saxophonist Clint Maedgen have been invited to BNS’s Bayou Boogaloo “party” on Saturday, May 18. Later that night Moore, Jensen and Greer, and the band’s regular bassist Ashish “Hash” Vyas, plus drummer Hassan Hurd, will be joined by Morning 40 Federation’s guitarist Bailey Smith.
“I’m Angelo Moore and this is the Brand New Step. One, two three, hit it!”
Saturday, May 18
Urban South Lafitte Stage, 4 p.m.