The Motet
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The Motet

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The Motet @ Ned Fest

Nederland, Colorado, USA

Nederland, Colorado, USA

The Motet @ Columbus Jazz and Rib Fest

Columbus, Ohio, USA

Columbus, Ohio, USA

The Motet @ Mishawaka Ampheteatre

Ft. Collins, Colorado, USA

Ft. Collins, Colorado, USA

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Boulder's instrumental jazz-funk ensemble is all over the place on its latest release — and that's a compliment of the highest order.
"Afro Disco Beat" starts like a Fela Kuti tune then morphs into a bass-thumping dance club number; "Anew" is a down-tempo acid jazz number built around electric piano and a wispy synth line; the title track features three minutes of tasty drumming from band leader Dave Watts and socially conscious vocal samples from the likes of Alice Walker and Noam Chomsky.
Sax player Dominic Lalli offers up tasty solos on tunes such as "Afrotech," while "Slice of Humanity" features the talents of percussionist Scott Messersmith; elsewhere the band delves into salsa and straight-up funk.
It's the kind of excessive variety that could come off contrived in the hands of lesser players, but Watts and his bandmates are equally comfortable in every genre they attempt. An intriguing mix of real instruments and musical technology (many of the tracks were assembled or rearranged by Watts in post-production), Instrumental Dissent is a treat for jazz fans and beat diggers alike.
- The Daily Camera

You cannot get more musically diverse than the Motet.
With sounds ranging from Afrobeat, Afro-Cuban and Latin to good old jazz, this all-instrumental band offers something for everyone.
The Motet is able to update a genre of music that has been out of the mainstream and considered a musical sleeping pill. The group is able to revitalize it and give it a pulse. Every drumbeat is a beating heart, every guitar chord a voice, and the silky saxophone laces a narrative that only an ensemble band can tell.
Even though there are not any lyrics, each track is able to tell a story. In the track "La Lucha," you feel as if you are placed right in the center of Havana, full of bustling commotion and ethnic flair.
Most popular music takes listeners to the nightclub or rock show - places where sounds blend together into one loud soundtrack of banality. But the Motet is able to do what few other bands can do - it is able to show you the world.

- Daily Lobo

When a band that makes its name on their live experience tries to transform that feel into a cohesive studio album, their attempts often fall flat. It is especially difficult task when the live sound in question is focused on open improvisation that contains a funky-electronic tribal feel.
Instrumental Dissent, The Motet’s new album, does not succumb to the pitfalls of other’s failed attempts, but rather accomplishes that feat of transferring their instrumental based live sound into a terrific studio album. Led by drummer extraordinaire Dave Watts, The Motet are quite successful in creating a polished representation that reflects their live power.
What initially strikes the listener on Instrumental Dissent, is its incredible fluidity. The transitions flow effortlessly from track to track, as its hard to decipher if the smooth transition is a shift from song to song, or a separate movement of a single track. For a tasty treat, forward the disc to "Afrotech," clear some dance space, and enjoy. This thriller, and the rest of Instrumental Dissent sounds the way of a river of chocolate; sweet, smooth, thick and damn tasty.

Jason Gershuny
Monday, September 11, 2006

- Glide Magazine

Not like that's a bad thing.
Building from their Afro-Cuban/Latin sound, the world beat monsters have stepped it up, taking their game to an all-new high. Laced with electronic sounds and samples, Instrumental Dissent takes listeners on a heady adventure deep into the realm of space.

“Afro Disco Beat” starts things off with a marriage of the Afro-Cuban sound the band is noted for and the new sonically challenging sounds they have embraced. Not fully electronic in sound, the groove of the “Afro Disco Beat” still retains live instrumentation and heavy percussive vibe. Free from any genre tags, The Motet has always fused styles like Afro-beat, jazz, Latin and funk. Now they have taken their raging dance hall vibe and introduced house, break-beat and down tempo into the fold.

Tracks like “Johnny Just Drop” and “Afrotech” are 100% adrenaline-driven. “Afrotech” goes heavy on horns with Dominic Lalli’s tenor sax leading the way. He is joined throughout the album by horn friends Jon Gray (trumpet), Jon Stewart (alto sax) and Mark Tragesser (bari saxophone). Dave Watts, one of the premiere drummers playing today, remains relentless throughout the whole project, pushing the beat with unbelievable fury.

“Anew” slows the vibe of the record and offers the one chance to breathe. As you drift weightlessly through the intro, a subtle electronic presence begins to creep into the realm. Samples from Wole Soyinka add to the layered texture of the down-tempo groove. The voices sampled offer subtle messages of positive change (Other samples are from Harry Belafonte, Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker and others) and express the band's self-appointed position to bring about change.

Without a doubt old Motet fans will find what they are looking for in Instrumental Dissent; newcomers will most certainly fall into the groove. Wherever this record is played there is certain to be a throw down.

Written by Brad Hodge
Monday, 06 November 2006

- An Honest Tune

The electronic influence is seeping its way into different bands in unexpected ways. Colorado's The Motet has been touring the jamband/college circuit for years, honing its World Music dance party into a seriously well-oiled machine. With Instrumental Dissent, the band's horns and deep-pocket bass is thrown into a blender with house beats and trance. Result? Slamming, driving grooves played with skill and fire. Bandleader and primary songwriter Dave Watts is also one of the unheralded drummers working today, laying down completely authentic, super-tight syncopated funk beats and electronica programming on the aptly-titled "Afrotech." The recording and production is also stellar.
- Modern Drummer

In a world dominated by producers, new guitar gods and vocalists with LSD (Lead Singer Disease), the Motet offers a refreshing alternative. Their drummer leads the band’s sound with steam directed from that proverbial engine room as opposed to the normal routine of a guitar lick and a witty sheet of lyrics. Instrumental Dissent is the new album by the Colorado quintet, featuring a nearly year-long exploration through the mind of a band excavating that elusive new sound. Some songs are linear tapestries while others are a wonderful hodgepodge of various elements mixed and matched from multiple jams. caught up with drummer Dave Watts, who leads the Motet, after a recent two-gig series of Herbie Hancock tribute performances—an homage, which dates back to the band’s first unofficial Halloween theme night from 2000. Watts discussed the new album, an addition in his family, life in a Pro Tools world and the everchanging but timeless devotion to the hard lessons of the road—“we look at the schedule and we keep playing—we’re lifers,” said Watts and jamband fans are continually grateful for that fact.

RR: How were the Herbie Hancock tribute gigs you played recently in Colorado?

DW: The Motet did a Herbie Hancock tribute around five, six years ago at the Fox [Theatre in Boulder, Colorado] and it started our traditional Halloween theme night featuring a different artist every year. Herbie was probably my favorite out of all of them. I’ve grown up loving his music so much that to be able to play a whole night of his stuff is really exciting for me. The keyboard player, Joey Porter—who is in this particular lineup—is from Portland, Oregon. He had a group out there and they’ve done this tribute for about three years now. When he moved out here, it seemed like a natural progression to put it together again and it’s highly successful.

RR: Who played at the tribute gigs this year?

DW: Myself, Garrett [Sayers], Dominic [Lalli] from the Motet and Joey Porter on keys.

RR: Well-received?

DW: Yeah, people just came out in droves. It’s amazing; people love that stuff. You forget as a musician when you’re listening to it but a lot of people listen to it and a lot of non-musicians appreciate his stuff. There’s a balance of jazz and dance music.

RR: What Hancock songs did you play?

DW: “Actual Proof,” “Spank-a-lee,” “Palm Green,” a lot of stuff from Thrust, from Secrets, from Headhunters, we even did “Chameleon”—we covered a pretty big gamut from his funk era.

RR: His music has aged rather well.

DW: (laughs) It’s amazing that those sounds have because some of that stuff becomes so dated. People are kind of going back to those sounds; harmonically and rhythmically, it will never be outdated. That stuff is so cutting-edged.

RR: My other feature this month is on Keller Williams and we spoke about your own “cutting-edged” sound. He called you “the human metronome.” Do you have any projects lined up with him in the future?

DW: (laughs) Classic! Wow. I wish we did. We haven’t really done much since that trio album that we did [Laugh]. Man, his bag has gotten so much deeper since then, too. When we were playing together, it was just the tip of the iceberg compared to what he’s doing, now. Actually, it’s no wonder we haven’t played together because he doesn’t really need me. (laughter) His thing is so happening, covering all the bases by himself; he’s just a phenomenon, really.

RR: He barely needs himself; he’s got so many loops going on.

DW: Yeah, his gear is just going to show up to gigs; his soundman—for the harmonies. (laughter) It’s amazing. I couldn’t believe it when we first played together. Actually, I’ve known Keller since around 1995. He was living in Colorado playing at a coffee shop. He’d play acoustic and sing and then he’d bust out a trumpet solo. I said, “Wow—this guy has some different stuff going on.” Before you know it, he was doing stuff with String Cheese, his guitar playing had really come together, creating this sound that he is known for and then, he got into the looping thing after we played together; he was just getting into it when we did that trio album. Now, it’s through the roof. He’s just insanely talented. He’s one of those guys that’s going, going, going and it’s music all of the time in his head. The funny thing is that it’s all feel for him. He doesn’t really know the technical side of music—at least when we were playing together. Our bass player would explain the chords to him and he would say: “O.K. That’s what you call it.” He didn’t really have any theory for it but his ear is so big that he’s just a monster musician.

RR: I hear your baby in the background. Keller’s 17-month old daughter sings on a loop on the last track on his new album.

DW: (laughs) That’s great. I put my kid on an album, too. I can’t resist—just a little snippet on the way in and on the way out.

RR: We’ve got six-month old twin boys but they don’t sing, they shout. Anyhow, the Motet Trio has a gig on March 2 and you have another side project gig on March 7.

DW: The trio project is really cool. It’s kind of like what we’re doing with the Herbie thing, minus Herbie with me, Dominic and Garrett. We’ve been getting into some freeform stuff with non-tune oriented music. We’re really trying to strip down the music as much as possible and just play. I love the trio format; it’s a pretty amazing synergy.

Garrett and I also have a trio with Dan Lebowitz from ALO called Magic Gravy. We’ve gotten into some spaces with that trio where we basically play one song per set. The whole ability to stop on a dime, cruise around and do different things in a telepathic way is pretty exciting. We’re milking that and applying that to our Motet trio, too with Dom and it’s been really fun. The March 2 gig is actually the opening of a coffee shop here in town.

RR: The Motet’s new studio release, Instrumental Dissent paves new terrain while being an extension of the past—a varied and confident exploratory work.

DW: I think it stands out from our other albums because it really was a true studio effort. We gave ourselves quite a bit of time over the last year to work on it. For one, me having a kid took me off the road a bit. That was a good excuse for me to want to stay home and still be creative. The album is partly an expression of that—having the time and space to be able to do it because we also recorded the whole thing at home. We did a bit of mixing in a studio but all of the recording of the tracks and a main part of the mixing happened at home. It was great for us to get with it and try different ideas. I think that’s what makes it work really well because we were able to try different ideas and it wasn’t just a capture of what we do live in a studio setting—something onto itself. Part of the flow of the album is the result of us sitting back and saying, “O.K., what needs to happen here?” We’d write songs for certain moments on the album. That’s a general synopsis of what makes Instrumental Dissent stand out from our other albums.

RR: Does that define the organic flow of the album? Were tracks culled from various sources or were the songs pieced together en masse in the studio?

DW: It was all done in the studio at the time but that time period was over nine months. With Pro Tools, you can kind of do anything at this point. I remember the days of tape and all of that stuff and trying to cut and splice and overdub—that process was really laborious and time-consuming. It’s now gotten to a point where if you can hear it in your head, you can make it happen without having to spend $100,000 on a producer and a high-end studio. You can do it at home. Really—that’s the exciting part about being a musician because it’s all about being creative and trying to work out the sounds that you hear in your head. We’d just go into our rehearsal space and play; play a bunch of tapes of tunes, play some different ideas. I would go in there after the guys had gone and spend a few days mixing and matching all of the different takes, improvs and tunes—cutting and splicing something consistent.

That was something that we’ve never done before. There are some areas with solo sections and what not that are what they are but there are other areas that are completely created in the editing mode, which is really exciting. Not only is that something that we’ve never done live before, but it was something that we really hadn’t done when we’d recorded it. There might have been a keyboard from one improv that was put with the drum part of another improv to mix and match something that was even more exciting. For us, that was what being in a studio was all about. I grew up listening to Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel and some of the later Beatles where you can tell it was all about sitting behind a desk, creating something onto itself. The album encompasses a whole slew of different processes towards making it what it was. Like I said, there was some takes with us going in there and playing and that’s what it ended up on the album; there were other things that were all mixed and matched; some areas had scratch tracks where I would overdub the drums or record one instrument at a time to get a clear, clean sound. There was no one consistent way to making any of the tracks. It’ll be interesting to see how we do it next time.

RR: It’s also interesting that you mentioned Peter Gabriel because he revolutionized how drums could sound in a studio setting—post Genesis. The drums recorded on those solo albums would sound like percussion from a claustrophobic tube segueing into a vast surround sound environment. In the early 70s, the classic example is Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham and his drum kit in the hallway of a very old British castle being recorded by Jimmy Page for “When the Levee Breaks.” Are the drum sounds of the 70s and 80s easier to get on tape these days?

DW: Right. Right. You had to actually go to the place. That’s why, back then, the bands that were able to do that had to be highly successful because there had to be money behind it to be able to create all of the drum sounds. Now it’s like you can record all of the drums in a tiny little room and replace them with drums recorded all over the world with different programs that will do that sort of thing, automatically. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it has the same spirit. I think there are sounds and there is the spirit of music and you can’t necessarily confuse the two. If you’ve got the sound, it doesn’t mean that the music is going to suddenly make sense or have that much more relevance. There’s a balance there, for sure, but I definitely appreciate the fact that I don’t have to go into a high-end studio or do it at home with mediocre results. There’s other possibilities that really opens up our world.

What really gets me excited about the music from the 70s is the liveness of it. Once the 80s came around, the focus was on drum machines and perfection of time and all of that stuff so that it squared things out. I love the old Herbie Hancock stuff and every song speeds up. (laughs) That’s great. You never get that anymore; everyone plays in a grid. It has to be like a metronome so you can edit it really easy. It’s unfortunate because it’s really a legitimate musical form to have music accelerate. It creates a certain amount of dynamic energy—that was sort of a given at a certain period of recorded music. Now, it’s a given that everything is going to be metronomically correct. I miss that to a certain degree and also some of the rawness. You listen to some of Herbie’s stuff and the drums are really raw. You put on the headphones and you say, “Wow—they let that slide?” When you hear the whole thing, it works. I think there was also a certain amount of acceptance to a raw, edgy quality.

RR: With all of the technology to get what is in the head on tape, is there the opposite problem where a drummer or band has no outside inspiration anymore?

DW: Yeah. Yeah—the whole option anxiety; there are so many possibilities, what works? That’s a difficult one because you can get so deep into your head, so focused on the possibilities that when you stand back and listen to the whole thing, you say: “Aww…I haven’t gotten anywhere.” That’s definitely something to keep in balance at times. I think that’s a challenge for any musician at any time. You always need a bigger picture when you’re trying to work on music.

RR: Is it safe to say that the Motet increased the big picture the old fashioned way—you went on the road and continually redefined your sound via multiple gigs? If so, does having children reduce touring, in turn reducing influences?

DW: I don’t think that’s going to change because of my situation. The touring is a little bit challenging at times especially, when you’re on the club circuit and you’re having to schlep gear until 4am. Honestly, I look forward to going on tour so I can get some sleep. (laughter)

RR: I know. About a month after our twins were born, I was in New York on a feature assignment, woke up in a hotel room and had no idea where I was but that full night’s rest felt damn good.

DW: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing when you realize that at home you get less sleep sometimes than you do on the road. I think that there are plenty of bands that focus on trying to make it big and their presentation and all of that. My own personal thing—and the rest of the group knows—is all about playing. We’re players; we grew up playing jazz, loving to hear guys that would walk up on stage and put their heart and soul into it. It’s not about just the song. Pop music can be so much about the song and the presentation that that influences emotions. None of us really want to ever end up like that. I don’t think we have that fear, at all. If we stay at home, we have all of these different side projects and possibilities that it’s just a matter of being creative one way or another.

Going out there and playing every night? We still do it. This past summer we played sixteen shows in a row, driving six-to-eight hours a day between shows. It was insane. We said, “We must really love what we do to go through this.” You look at the schedule and you keep playing, keep playing. It builds you to a certain point with your character in playing that you can’t get any other way where you are dedicated to making the music. Those years and miles under our belt are definitely worth something. You’d think it would all build up and at some point: “O.K. Done,” but everyday is a new day. When you get back from touring, there’s a recovery period but then you’re suddenly saying, “O.K. When are we going out, again?” It becomes a habit. We’re lifers.

RR: I told Keller Williams in our interview this week that one of the main reasons that I like the Motet is they are a drummer-led band. He said, “What a concept too, because the drum is the most important instrument.” How important is that to your sound and what is the effect of percussionist Scott Messersmith leaving the band?

DW: Well, I definitely think, in the past, it’s been really important to our sound. I tend to write music from the rhythm up so I’ll write a song from the kit or percussion part or a bass line that has a good rhythmic sense to it. Our music has been very rhythm-oriented. Of course, with Scott and I having a vision of all of this Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, West African music, there has been a lot of that influence in there, as well, with the traditional rhythms. I think it’s been a big part of our sound. Also, the drummer writing the songs is definitely unique. Now we’ve gotten to a point that Scott’s left the band and, at the same time, a lot of other guys in the band are starting to write tunes. It’s actually becoming much more of a democracy as far as people bringing music to the table. I think we’re going to focus more on an indie jazz rock sort of vibe—definitely a different sound as opposed to the traditional world music. I think it’s opened up a lot of things for us. It puts more focus on the bass and drums without the percussion there—Garrett and I have a nice synergy. It’s only been a couple of months now so we’ll see where it takes us.

Randy Ray

It can’t be easy being The Motet, the
eight-year old Boulder, Colo., groove
unit founded by drummer Dave Watts,
where the M.O. appears to be not just
making excellent, propulsive, rhythm-
driven music that fans can’t resist
moving to, but also keeping up with
musical trends and incorporating new
styles and moods.
Somehow, the ensemble succeeds.
At least it does on its latest effort,
“Instrumental Dissent,” fresh off the
presses and just now hitting stores.
Yes, the new album is full of multi-lay-
ered jigsaw puzzles of beats and
sounds, and yes, it infiltrates the mind
to the point where you can’t sit still, but
it also ventures into realms heretofore
unexplored by The Motet (at least in
the studio) while putting forth a
relaxed, confident, chilled vibe that
speaks of maturity and evolution.
The difference is noticeable from the
first moments of the disc. “Afro Dance
Beat” opens with a gradual crescendo,
but instead of erupting into an all-out
percussion frenzy, it maintains a steady
pulse that does indeed bear a resem-
blance to the Afro pop that has been
sweeping the world. The groove contin-
ues for more than three minutes, when
a decidedly urbane sax solo by the very
fine Dominic Lalli marks a shift in the
mood and electronic club beats are lay-
ered over the original foundation.
“Anew” is downright ambient, as
clean and cool as a sci-fi utopia, with
long-time Motet keyboardist Scott
Messersmith pinging out a catchy little
ditty over a breezey guitar-bass-drums
figure, and the resonant voice of
Nigerian literary Nobel laureate Wole
Soyinka sampled to add the stamp of
21st-century sophistication and con-
sciousness. “Blowback” is similarly
sedate, though there’s a roiling under-
current that provides intensity, and “Old
Orchard,” the closer, is, as the title sug-
gest, a burnished stroll in an idyllic
This is not to say Watts and friends
have lost their fire. Not at all. In fact, the
rest of the 11 tracks are as hopped up
as ever. They include a ska-infused
polemic (“Music is the Weapon,” intro-
duced by a sampled quote from Harry
Belafonte), a short Afro-percussion
interlude (“Slice of Humanity”) and a
spicy salsa number (“La Lucha”), as
well as the usual furiously funky num-
bers Motet fans have come to expect.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with
that – it’s why I always leap at the
chance to check out the Motet when it
issues another disc or pays a visit to
the valley – but I also dig this new trip,
and have a lot of respect for any group
that works so hard to keep their act
fresh and new and moving forward.

Richard Anderson

- Jackson Hole Times

The latest release from the Motet IS VERY GOOD. Imagine if Fela Kuti and Weather Report recorded a jam session full of tag-team grooves, then Thievery Corporation remixed the whole thing, complete with trancy dancefloor bombs a DJ-style song transitions. Then, have a modern day jam-band learn the CD note-for note and play it back with a trump-tight but organic energy only possible with in-the-moment performance. that’s close to the sound. Very impressive junk and you can tell they that successfully merges their already trademark sound of Afro/latin/Jazz fusion with some trippy shape-shifting electronic textures. The track “Anew’ reminds me of an AIR tune with its bleeby resonating synths over sweet rhodes piano comps. Its the kinda sound that could easily fit them in with the other post-rockers like Tortoise or the Album Leaf. But a chill-out record this IS NOT. This is a party record, full of bumpin grooves and disco basslines. Im not saying these guys don’t jam. They are master improvisseurs. But I will say the Motet approaches the electronica flavors a bit differently than other jam-acts that’ve gone in a similar direction. Its well worth a listen for fans of anything from fusion to jamtronica to indie-electro to latin-groove stuff like Ozomatli. Dig in!

Posted by Cabeza De Taco | Nov 15, 2006

- Taco Town

Dave Watts isn't afraid of change. In fact, since construction began on the
Motet <>, the Bounder-resident's
Afro-Cuban/Latin/Funk/Jazz ensemble, change has been a consistent ingredient
in Watts' recipe for success. A former student of the Berkley School of
Music, and drummer for seminal jam-outfit Shockra, Watts has weathered close
to two decades in the live music scene, watching jazz blend with jam into a
single term. With a clear vision of the Motet's potential, and a solid canon
of charted improvisations, Watts isn't shy about tweaking his outfit's
lineup, creating an open forum for exploration. With friends in all corners
of the country, Watts has remained busy outside the Motet, participating in
a California offering of the Everybody Orchestra and jamming with String
Cheese in such varied locals as Colorado and Alabama. Mixing the layered
funk of Fela Kuti into his musical stew, the drummer continues to sharpen
his compositional skills, as evidenced on the Motet's newest release, Music
for Life. But, over the years, Watts has remained true to one ideal: change
is good.

MG- It has been a few years since the last Motet studio effort. What element
of the group's sound has most evolved since your last recording?
DW- Having a horn player instead of a vocalist has definitely pushed us in a
more Afro-beat direction. We've been exploring a lot of new melodic,
harmonic, and rhythmic concepts. Recently, a big influence has been Fela
Kuti. Though we're not an Afro-beat band by any stretch of the word, he has
definitely influenced my writing. Even more than a style, it's a melodic and
rhythmic concept, which has helped me rediscover my sound as a writer
MG- What spurred this Fela Kuti rediscovery?
DW- Every year we do a Halloween Show where we feature a different artist.
This year, actually, we did a Fela Kuti show for New Years. Learning his
music and performing it really opened me up to that whole way of writing. It
was really a revelation for me in terms of writing efficiency: a melodic
concept in writing, which is so simple, yet effective. We have sort of been
milking that and basing things around that ever since. It's the same with
the rhythm parts too---finding some sort of rhythmic skeleton to use as a
base. That's how I usually write. I'll find a drum pattern, guitar pattern,
or bass pattern and use that to build all our rhythmic patterns.
MG- What instruments do you compose on?
DW- When I am writing, I'll play bass, guitar, Rhodes, vibraphone, and all
different percussion stuff and drum sets.
MG- Which of Fela's song has most influenced your writing style?
DW- Last year we did a song of Fela's called "Expensive Shit." I wrote a
song based off of that called "Cheap Shit," which is the first track on our
new album.
MG- The Motet's lineup has been in flux for years. Do you have any plans to
solidify a permanent roster?
DW- We'd been trying to solidify a band as long as we've been touring. We
were always like, "If we get a band, we can make a difference with our
sound." At the same time, it seems like the most difficult thing in the
world and, I think, it adds a lot of pressure to the musicians. They sort of
say to themselves, "I am in this band and we have to make it." So actually,
just in the last few months, I've released everyone from that concept. I am
just going to take it gig by gig, and tour by tour. I have players I think
work best for the group and I try to approach them first, but if they have
other things going on or need a break, it really helps that they don't have
to commit to everything we do. It also really helps me not to be so tied
down to everyone else's schedule. It's been a great thing, mixing the lineup
as much as possible. It's also helped me to define our sound, which is
important when you're shifting players so much. I've always been really
defined by my charts---which parts to open and which parts to compose.
MG- Recently, you've brought vocalist Jans Ingber back into the Motet's
fold. Yet, this tour, your collective has been focusing largely on
DW- We are actually only doing one vocal tune this tour "Shine," which never
made it on an album. So Jans has really been functioning as our
percussionist. It's been a bit challenging---a contingent of fans definitely
love the vocal material. But again, it's a matter of defining our sound and
sticking with it. It's way more exciting for me as a writer and a player to
focus on instrumental music. It's more of my calling. The whole concept of
releasing everyone from commitment opened the band up for me to ask Jans
back on the road, you know, just for a couple of weeks.
MG- With an open door policy in place, does the Motet still utilize certain
practice rituals regularly?
DW- Not really. When we were trying to do more of the band thing, we were
about that sort of thing. But now, it's a matter of finding great players.
I've found that when you have the same guys on the road for five months,
things get a little stagnant and you need those sorts of exercises. But,
when you're using different players, there is more excitement. Every player
throws in something different. There is different banter—adding new players
mixes in more of that creative, improvisation element than just trying to
work on those exercises.
MG- Do you still work from a set list?
DW- Yes. It's important to have a set list when people are reading charts
and so many new players are coming in and out. I start most of the songs
and, at some point, I'd like to just start and groove and be able to have
anyone go from there: sort of feel the next song coming on. It's difficult
for a drummer to be a band leader. I am in the back and people can't catch
my cues as easily. I can't just whisper in someone's ear. It's a lot easier
for horn players or someone in the front. So, sometimes, I have to
preconceive or lay things out a little more than I'd like.
MG- What drummer-band leader do you look to for inspiration?
DW- The late great Elvin Jones, who led the Jazz Machine for years. I was
fortunate enough to be in New York at the time of his funeral [in May] and
went somewhat undercover, though it was open to the public. It was an open
casket funeral and it was pretty intense to be in the same room as someone
who was so inspirational. Max Roach, Wynton Marsalis and all these great New
York Jazz musicians were there. It was really inspiring to see someone's
life come and go in a celebratory way, not in a depressing way.
MG- Like Hot Buttered Rum, this summer the Motet has also been sporting a
pretty nifty tour bus.
DW- We are using a BioDiesel bus. Hot Buttered Rum actually use a bus which
converts vegetable oil, so they travel for free, as well. Living in Boulder,
you see all sorts of alternative sources of energy and concepts for trying
to make the world-go-round. We just bought this shuttle bus last year and
it's been a great thing. People have been sponsoring us and providing
BioDiesel for us to go on tour with. Even more than our impact on the
environment, it's been great just being able to go out there and tell people
about this great thing.
MG- HeadCount has also been tabling on Motet tour this summer.
DW- I just read an article about Vote For Change, which Bruce Springsteen,
Dave Matthews and all those supergroups, and I agree with those guys. There
is no sort of "Beating Around, so to speak, the Bush." His administration
has been a huge detriment to anything that is not the elite of America or
involved in the military. People on the fringe of society are all taking a
huge beating. I've seen in the mom and pop festivals. The Bush
Administration supports giant cooperate media. The Clear Channel Corporation
has basically destroyed grassroots music and art. The Bush Administration
has no plans of controlling that—in fact they support that sort of thing.
It's a very distressing thing that's happened in America. We have to do
something to change that. If there is anything that makes me feel good about
America, it's that we can vote to change the government. I don't see a huge
difference between where the Bush Administration is going and dictatorships.
MG- As a former student at the Berklee School Music, how has the jazz-jam
scene evolved?
DW- I think more musicians branching into a scene that supports more than
just jazz. It's great to see these jazz musicians playing clubs, which would
normally just be rock or pop oriented. But, it's the audience which has
changed: before it was homogeneous, now it's old and young. Jazz-fusion has
added all these new elements. For us, the world-dance-funk thing definitely
brings in more people. People love to dance and I can get more creative with
the chord changes. It's a great evolution from something which has always
been there, but never had an outlet.
MG- Any plans for a Shockra Reunion?
DW- Nope. A couple of them are out on the east coast raising children, so it
makes it harder to bring that together. But, I think we'd like to do a
reunion at some point [laughs].

Mike Greenhaus

With eight instrumental tracks that are stretched to a length of more than an hour, there's no question that there are a few extended moments on Music for Life, The Motet's second outing for Harmonized Records. Yet, the ensemble's organic melding of jazz, funk, and world rhythms is so delightfully perky that it's impossible not to be captivated by the hypnotic swirl of its sun-drenched refrains. The ill-titled opening track Cheap Shit is splattered with heavy organ, groovy guitar, and popping percussion, virtually crying out for Steve Winwood's R&B-inflected vocals, while Power plays to the whirling Santana-esque pulsations from which The Motet draws tremendous influence. Elsewhere, Black Hat and The Magic Way tap into Steely Dan's stylish sophistication, and even lesser tunes such as the bobbing beat of Fearless and the Lee Ritenour -inspired Corpocratic manage to stay afloat, thanks, in part, to the collective's exuberant delivery. The Motet's jazz-fusion indulgences are still remarkably moving, bristling with inspiration at every turn and crackling with the type of energy upon which the band's peers only can gaze with envy.

Written by John Metzger

- The Music Box


Breathe 1999
Play 2000
Live 2002
Music for Life 2004
Instrumental Dissent 2006



2008 brings a new sound to a familiar face in the national music community. With an astonishingly talented cast of musicians, The Motet has refined their sound and their vision into a dynamic and expressive improvisational force.

Founded and led by drummer Dave Watts, The Motet began almost ten years ago and hasn’t let up since. Featuring complex compositions written and arranged by Watts himself, the music tells a story through syncopated rhythms and melodies.

“I’ve always written parts for guitar, bass, horns, and percussion. Because they’ve all been created with a clave in mind, there’s a very specific way in which the parts interact,” explains Watts.

“That’s what gives the song its character. When we play live sometimes we’ll get into a groove, play the head, and then open up for solos. And all the while, everything is tied to the clave with everyone playing in it. That’s just one way you approach playing music with respect for it’s composition or tradition.”

As music and technology evolve at an astounding rate, so too has The Motet pioneered their unique sound while continuing to defy categorization. With roots in Jazz, Afrobeat, Funk, Salsa and Samba, The Motet keeps their audiences in a dancing frenzy by layering House and Techno rhythms into a style that is uniquely their own.

From years of incessant touring and with a rich legacy under their belt, The Motet’s “resolve to evolve” has made them indispensable in the East and West Coast groove circuits.

Writes Dave Kirby of Boulder Magazine: “Watts' dedication and artistic integrity have created an elusive musical entity which seems to be as much fun to play in as it is to go out and hear.”

The Motet is a world-class ensemble that whips audiences into a whirlwind using sheer impromptu force. The rhythms are spontaneous and textured and the beats are hard-driving. The band uses this energy to create a rapport between the audience and themselves that is rarely seen in today's world of manufactured rock. The Motet consecrates the ground on which dance music meets free-form improvisation.

For all booking inquiries contact Ira Sweetwine at Sweetwine Entertainment Group:

Band Members