By Anson Burtch
The world of music has many different rich musical traditions. Some bands stay in the safe envelope of well-defined genres, while more ambitious musicians reach deep into various styles to create their own unique sound. The Motet eschews the former for the latter, trying new things and testing out the results night after night on the road.
Live, the third release from The Motet, captures these nightly experiments with enthusiastic audiences. Fusing genres together, The Motet obtains a world funk sound that is equally at home in New Orleans jazz clubs or at Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
The album opens and closes with the band performing traditional drum music. With Dave Watts on the drum kit and Scott Messersmith on percussion, the tribal beats provide a strong backbone throughout the album. Layer on a deep funk, jazz improvisation, and a soulful singer, and you’re closing in fast on The Motet sound.
Jans Ingber’s lead vocals on “Know Her” and “Scibbits” display great emotion and range. Some of his vocal stylings sound like Stevie Wonder and the lyrics present the band’s global and idealistic mindset. Many of the tracks are sung entirely in Spanish.
“Sandunga” is a great example of how this band holds the different traditions together. The rhythm creates a bed and excellent keyboard work by Greg Raymond fills in with complex jazz lines. The Spanish vocals instantly conjure up a Caribbean dance party. This full world sound is not overly dense and allows each instrument to be heard, either in the foreground with a smooth solo or mellowing out in the background.
Two tracks on the album are improvisations, illustrating the rapport these musicians share and their willingness to let loose on any given night. Recorded during March 2002 on a West Coast swing through Oregon and Washington, the improv tracks are snippets of the band’s journeys into the unknown. Appearing on a live album, the tracks fit right in with the ethos of the band. “Foxploration I” features a fantastic keyboard jam which makes the band sound like a South American version of Mahavishnu Orchestra.
“Aquelle Esquina” clocks in at 13:45 giving the listener plenty of uninterrupted groove. The Motet is able to stretch out its songs with extended solos while staying focused on the core sound. Mike Tiernan explodes toward the end of this track with a great guitar solo. Propelling the music forward, he is usually found in the middle of the mix playing jazz chords and filling out the sound with intricate riffs.
Touring heavily seems to be the lifeblood of this band. With their constant musical experimentation and party atmosphere, The Motet turns any show into a Carnival. A quick check of tour dates reveals a west coast tour in July; a featured spot at the Nederland, Colorado Music and Arts Festival; and east coast dates in August.
On the whole, Live captures the magic The Motet lays down every single night. It’s a great album to put on at a party or even if you are alone and need to lift your spirits. Don’t miss them the next time they pass through, but until then, Live will bring the experience directly to your stereo.