Neo-soul man and University of North Texas alumnus Quentin Moore was all set to hit the road and do a short world tour with his band last year.
But then COVID-19 grounded him and countless other recording artists.
Instead of cooling his jets, Moore said he pared down his expenses, consulted with the DaxTones — the great big band he teamed up with in 2019 — and decided to put a live album together.
When you think of live albums, you likely think of concert records concocted from the artists and audiences at revered venues such as Billy Bob’s Texas. For Moore, the live record is an anthology of his expansive neo-soul/R&B catalog at venues across Dallas. He titled it pragmatically: The Fonk Corona Live Album: Quentin Moore & the DaxTones. He drops the record on Jan. 22 across streaming formats.
“The DaxTones, they joined me the last time I went on a tour, and it ended up being a good mix. So going into 2020, I was like, ‘Let’s have you guys go on the tour with me,” Moore said.
The plan was to burn through as many venues and dates over six to eight weeks.
“We were planning to go to Europe, and we were in talks with Australia and Japan,” Moore said. “We did Latvia and Lithuania with the band last year, and we spoke with people in Spain and Italy, in Hungary, Turkey. We had been recording some performances so we could finish the packaging and start the marketing to pick up dates. We actually finished recording one live set in March the week before COVID hit. The original plan was not supposed to be to make a live album. It was to get ready for the tour and have something to show promoters.”
Moore said Kevin Pittman, the keyboardist who’s played with him for a long time, doubles as his recording engineer. He and Pittman discussed doing something different with the live takes after venues all over the world closed their doors.
“We’ve never done a live album, and we were excited to get to record it because we’d never done it,” Moore said. “We realized that, hey, here’s something we can release to the people. Over the summer I wasn’t going to be recording anything as it was.”
The Fonk Corona is a beefy affair, showcasing Moore and the DaxTones’ formidable catalog and how versatile Moore is now in the early days of his midcareer stretch. The record captures shows at Three Links, The Free Man, January Sound and Audio Dallas.
With the DaxTones, Moore’s earliest songs — “Y.O.L.O.,” “That’s My Girl” — and his staple covers, such as Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful,” get a boost in texture and heft. The bass lines and horns season Moore’s earlier work with a sonic rolling boil and a blast of energy that sizzles and smooths at the same time. His later songs — “Witch,” “You Forgot Your Heart” and “Love’s Worth” — let Moore and company take byways from the original recordings. It’s on these tracks that Moore’s skill as a bandleader shines, as does his ability to hand a song to a DaxTone for an extra bit of seasoning.
But the record also shows off Moore’s experiment with strings. He recorded “Simply Beautiful” with a string trio and guitar. Moore is an assured baritone with a falsetto that slays. When he pairs his vocals with violin and cello, the proposition renders unexpected lightness in his voice.
“I’ve always used strings in my music, but I wanted to try something different and do some recording with me and acoustic strings,” Moore said. “When I think of strings, I think of sophistication and royalty. I feel like a king when I sing with strings. It’s almost like, ‘Oh, I’m official now. I’m singing with an orchestra.’ It’s been a really great experience, especially to be able to sing with strings, with my songs.”
String arrangements piqued his interest so much that Moore said he’ll be traveling to Cuba to record with a Dallas cellist who is Cuban. Now that Moore has developed his skills and artistry to the point that he can jump in and record minutes after stepping into the studio with new material, he said his interest in other music is adding flavor to his repertoire.
“Now I can hear some Brazilian jazz and I’ll be like, ‘I want to see what I can do with this,’ and sit down, grab my guitar and try to play some Brazilian jazz myself,” he said.
The DaxTones and the musicians he’s been playing with for more than a decade have set a bar, too.
“There’s definitely been growth,” Moore said. “I remember on that first record, with as many takes as I could get, I’m crying, ‘This isn’t right.’ I just couldn’t get the sound I wanted. Hearing myself recorded more shows me something that I can fix and be stronger on. My first record, I wasn’t a full-time musician. But after that, I became a full time musician. My guys and the DaxTones, those guys are excellent. Some of those guys played with [Denton’s two-time Grammy winner] Snarky Puppy horn section. They went to UNT as well. My keyboard player is a UNT grad whose been with me since the beginning. One of the guys toured with Babyface. The percussionist played for Sean Martin.
“Just being around these guys makes you better. There’s the saying that you should always be the weakest person in your crew so you want to get better. There’s something to that.”