The Motet (photo: Joshua Huver)
Last Saturday, February 4, Colorado’s premier funk-heavy soul machine The Motet sold out The Fillmore and treated the crowd to a two-hour groove clinic featuring special guest musicians and several reinterpretations of classic funk standards.
The Motet has undergone a slight readjustment over the last year; under the direction of longtime band leader Dave Watts on the drum kit, it is obvious that they have not lost a beat.
Their set began shortly after 10:30PM, with most members strolling out. Watts took his place top and center behind the kit while Joey Porter set up stage left on his assortment of keyboards. Moving stage right, Garrett Sayers and Ryan Jalbert held down the bass and electric guitar, respectively. On the edge of stage right, trumpeter Gabe Mervine and tenor saxophonist Drew Sayers welcomed the first guest of the evening, trombonist and San Francisco native Natalie Cressman.
These seven musicians entered immediately with “Cloak and Dagger,” off of The Motet’s most recent release, 2016’s Totem (it’s “Motet” backwards!). All of the instrumentalists warmed up in a planned jam out of the main tune, and eventually lead vocalist Lyle Divinsky ran out and took center stage, jumping right into the next song “Like We Own It.”
Cressman took the first solo to an uproarious response and Jalbert carried that momentum into an guitar solo to end the track. It was at this point that the second guest musician, Jason Hann, percussionist for The String Cheese Incident and one half of the electronic duo EOTO, was introduced and brought onstage.
With a full stage, the band launched into George Clinton’s 1976 Parliament work with “Getting To Know You” off of The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein. Porter took the first of several extended solos and completely dominated the tune.
Following the Parliament jam, Divinsky took off, disappearing backstage and leaving the eight musicians remaining to perform the instrumental Herbie Hancock tune “Just Around The Corner,” from his 30th official release, 1980’s Mr. Hands. Although each musician received multiple opportunities to showcase their chops, Porter continued to dominate the solos he took and would have singlehandedly stolen the show if not for the collaborative nature of The Motet.
“We need your help to start this next one off, y’all,” yelled Divinsky as he returned to the stage for a pair of Totem tracks, beginning with “Danger” and concluding with “Damn!” which also featured a tease of a small jam on Here Come The Mummies’ “Freak Flag.”
Divinsky left the stage again while the band moved into another instrumental, “The Fountain,” from 2014’s The Motet. Garrett Sayers’ bass licks held down a solid jam section and the horns were taking liberties left and right.
Gradually, the jam slowed down and, one by one, the musicians all left the stage until only Watts and Hann remained for an eight minute drum-off between the legends. One of the most impressive aspects of this moment was watching Hann as he focused his percussion palette, utilizing small sections of his arsenal at a time and eventually working his way through his entire kit.
The stage filled out again and they launched into the 2014 tune “Keep On Don’t Stoppin’” before returning to Totem material with “The Truth” and “Fool No More” to close the set. Between those two tracks, though, they paid tribute to the purple one, Prince Rogers Nelson, with a cover of “I Feel For You” from his 1979 self-titled album.
The band returned shortly after leaving the stage for a three-song encore that took the show past 12:30AM. Beginning with “Back It Up,” they then moved into another George Clinton tune, “(Not Just) Knee Deep)” from Funkadelic’s 1979 album Uncle Jam Wants You, before ending with their original “Closed Mouths Don’t Get Fed.”
Opening the evening was jazz-man-gone-punk-rock Andy Skerik and his quartet of high energy, distorted and raucous jazz virtuosity known as Skerik’s Bandalabra. For fans who arrived early enough, they were treated to an unforgettable performance that reached deep into the pockets of contemporary and classic hits as well as several originals.