You know, every once in a while, a group comes along that makes a reviewer glad to be of assistance in spreading the word about it. The Motet is one of those groups.
Based in Boulder, Colorado, but touring throughout the United States, The Motet creates an instant connection with its audience. Even though digital recording technology removes the group from the live audiences that it enjoys entertaining, the fact that The Motet has recorded its third album, Live, means that the message of its music can reach an even broader listenership.
It’s no exaggeration to state that The Motet is a group that’s on the verge of nationwide recognition. Or else, it should be. For, this sextet possesses not just a high degree of energy, from the start of a concert to the end, but also exceptional musicianship dedicated to creating a constant groove that sinks into the being of its audiences.
In spite of the constant element of the groove, The Motet’s music is quite varied, ranging from jazz jam attitudes of, say, John Scofield or Medeski Martin & Wood to Brazilian carnival music to Cuban clavé. The authenticity of the percussion--for percussion is
the basis for this group’s success--derives not from close listening to other recordings, but from some of The Motet’s members’ journeys to Cuba or West Africa. Serious musicians all, they understand that the end of their music must be the transmission of good feelings, soulfulness, from the means of their studies, practicing and touring.Live
starts immediately with a drumming call for attention as percussionists Scott Messersmith and Jans Ingber mix it up as the intensity rises, and as the audience is primed for the concert to follow. Then The Motet gets into an easy groove with "Know Her," Mike Tiernan’s sly guitar work accenting Greg Raymond’s keyboard funk. Just as you think you’ve pegged the band’s style, though, it switches gears by introducing Raymond’s extended Latin allusions until the middle of the song, when, naturally, the percussion takes over and the singers glide into a Cuban vamp. "The Archer Or The Arrow" gets into an extended improvisation over very few chords, reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s "What’s Goin’ On?" As such, it allows The Motet members to stand out through repeated choruses, as if in trance, while at the same time whipping the crowd into a frenzy, evidence of which occurs during the applause and shouting at the end of the tune. Still,
The Motet challenges expectations on "Aquelle Esquina," which features Brazilian percussion, as if in a street parade--which, coincidentally, is a characteristic of the New Orleans jazz that The Motet enjoys playing as well.
The constant element throughout all of the performances recorded during The Motet’s West Coast tour is the ability to make audiences have a good time and to feel good. The group obviously succeeds, as it adapts musical ideas from the world’s cultures that emphasize the primacy of percussion.