I knew before walking in the door that this was not going to be your average Motet show. They told us all beforehand, that Halloween was going to be a tribute to Herbie Hancock, and The Headhunters. I had seen the previous Halloween show, where they played Beatles tunes, and dressed up as John and Yoko. I had also seen a few Halloween shows at The Fox Theatre, and I knew what kind of potential that place has to become a madhouse on special occasions. So I thought that I kinda had a feel for what was in store. But this was different.
So I enter the theatre, and the stage is covered with plants and lit up with candles all over the place along with a few tiki torches, giving it a sort of jungle feel. The Headhunters, of course. Then the band comes out, all donning full tribal gear. Hula skirts, loin skins, huge wigs and face paint. Really running with this Headhunters theme.
But this is where the costume ends, and the music begins. While they may be dressed as cannibals, they came to jazz up The Fox. They started the evening off with some drumming, getting the crowd into dance mode with the African percussion that is so synonymous with the word Motet. Then the rest of the band comes out, and you start to get a feel for where they’re going to take you for Halloween. Eric Deutsch is joining Greg on the keyboards, Ira Sweetwine adds to the percussion, and Jon Stewart rounding out the set on sax. The next song, "Watermelon Man," certainly belonged to Stewart, showing that horns can fit into The Motet’s lineup, and fit quite well. Next came "Lil’ Brother," a great way for the rest of the band to show what they had brought to the table. Eric started it off with a nice quick solo on the keys, Stewart got a few more bars in, and then Mikee started in with his first solo of what was to become an unforgettable evening of guitar licks. There’s no doubt about it, Mikee was in rare form. The jazz format allowed for him to show a little different side of his playing, and since Herbie’s music doesn’t normally include his instrument, he had just that much more room in which to explore. And explore he did.
Next came Paul, with a nice introductory bass solo. If the funk is gonna be in the house, then Paul is happy to lead the way. Then Scott, Dave and Ira came in, playing off one another, reminding us that this is a percussion-based band. From there the tone was set for an unforgettable night with The Motet.
With the fusion style of jamming and improvisation in mind, they were certainly not there to play Hancock’s tunes note for note. These were Herbie’s tunes, but this was still The Motet, and costume aside, they were not going to let you forget it for a minute. The signature percussion jams were still there, keeping the house dancing hard.
Dave and Scott always have a way of laying down the groundwork and rhythm upon which the rest of the band can explore. Leading and guiding the band into a groove they can work with, and letting the magic unfold around them. No matter how crazy and wild the jams get, you can always look back to the percussion section to see where the band is going to take you. With the addition of Ira filling in for Jans, they took us anywhere they wanted to.
Of course no night of Hancock tunes would be complete without some wailing keyboard jams, and the teamwork shown by Greg and Eric cannot be overlooked. They came to play Herbie, and they were certainly up for the task. No type of music out there showcases the keyboards as well as Jazz does, and when you are following in the footsteps of the great Herbie Hancock, there’s an amazing potential to shine. Once again, the goal did not seem to be mimicking the tunes, but to give their own interpretation of where the jams could go. Both Greg and Eric led the way with some wonderful work on the boards.
All of this led to huge amounts of energy coming from the stage and it certainly showed in the crowd. All around you were goblins and ghouls, fairies and superheroes getting their groove on in a huge way. By the end of the night, not a soul in the place had much energy left, having surrendered it to the huge, full moon fueled boogie on the dance floor.
Overall, it has to rank up there with my all time favorite nights with The Motet. The change of format seemed to allow everyone that much more freedom to push their creativity in new directions, and they pushed them as hard as they could. On a night like Halloween, there’s always a huge variety of great music to choose from, and I’m definitely happy with my choice.
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