>I’ve just heard the crushing news that Dave Matthews Band’s saxophonist, LeRoi Moore, has died from his injuries sustained in late June from an ATV accident. I saw DMB just a few days later at Rothbury and in the presence of the great Jeff Coffin, brushed Roi’s absence aside with the assumption that I’d see the band again at some point in the future, and he would be with them then. It was a sad moment, seeing that CNN Breaking News headline with Roi’s name in it, and the shock has not yet worn off to allow the full effect of what we’ve lost to sink in.
Years ago, during high-school chemistry and the height of my crazed DMB fandom, a close friend and I lamented the release of Everyday as a sign to the band’s imminent breakup. In the wake of the famed Lillywhite Sessions/The Summer So Far debacle of 1999-2001, our fears centered around Dave’s obvious and well-publicized alcoholism and depression, which was all too painfully reflected in his songwriting. Over the years my devotion has mellowed, but my interest and love of Dave Matthews Band’s music has not. I callously tease friends who have maintained their undying loyalty, but really I am jealous that I no longer feel as drawn to any music as I once did to Matthews’.
Roi was the epitome of a drummer’s saxiphonist. If we’re being completely honest, he was much more than a bass, baritone, tenor, alto, and soprano saxiphonist — he also played the flute, pennywhistle, and bass clarinet. Partially through his own doing and partially through the mastery that is Carter Beauford’s drumming, Roi developed an uncanny ability over the past seventeen years with DMB to write horn lines that were both appropriately melodic and subtly percussive, for example on “Stay (Wasting Time)” (Before These Crowded Streets, 1998). Even more percussive were his solos, with which Beauford was constantly artfully matching his syncopated hi-hat rhythms and off-beat snare hits, and which — in true jazz tradition — often playfully referenced other songs and solos.
I’d like to say that I’ll make good on my self-assurance at Rothbury that I’ll see DMB again, but now it will never be possible. No matter how many tours the band goes on or how many replacements they try to fit in, today is the day that Dave Matthews Band is no more, and it’s something from which I do not feel at all ready to move on. I wish I had seen the band one week earlier, and what was briefly known as “the best tour since the fabled 2000″ is now irreparably marred. As I write this, DMB has taken the stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and is honoring their friend, with Coffin filling his spot at stage right now indefinitely. The robust saxman, always shaded and smiling, an almost two-decade fixture on the Dave Matthews Band stage, has left in his wake an unfillable void. And while I’m sure his bandmates will toil for years to come to recreate the magic he brought to the studio and the stage, and fans will argue unceasingly as to whom might best replace the beloved Roi, DMB will never be the same again.
In honor of the late great LeRoi Moore, here are my Top 5 Roi Live and Studio Tracks from 1991 – 2008. They’re all live and perfectly embody his soloing and line-writing styles.
1. “#34″ – Under The Table And Dreaming (1994)
2. “Spoon” – Before These Crowded Streets (1998)
3. “#41″ – Crash (1996)
4+. “Kit Kat Jam,” “Captain,” “Raven,” “Grey Street” – Busted Stuff (2002)
5. “Sweet Up And Down” – The Lillywhite Sessions/The Summer So Far (1999/2000)
1. “Stay (Wasting Time)” – Listener Supported (1999)
2. “Lie In Our Graves” – Live At Red Rocks 8.15.95 (1997)
3. “What Would You Say” – Live Trax Vol. 2 (2004/09/12 Golden Gate Park) (2004)
4. “So Much To Say” –> “Anyone Seen The Bridge” –> “Too Much” – The Central Park Concert (2003)
5. “Pantala Naga Pampa” –> “Rapunzel” – The Gorge (2004)