Dance to the music of The Motet |

Dance to the music of The Motet

Nick Foster

A simple T-shirt from The Motet’s merchandise department has a small band logo on the front, with a command to boogie on the back.

And when the Boulder-based sextet puts on a show, people dance. Their percussion-driven sound of African and Latin rhythms appeals to fans of many musical genres. Their Latin, Afro-Cuban sound appeals to fans of the traditional jazz forms, and their funk sound draws the younger crowd.

“The mood of place sends the music in a direction,” Motet drummer Dave Watts said. “If it’s an intimate place and people are sitting down, we might start out with some jazz, but the set evolves and it always leads into people just dancing like crazy. There’s no doubt we get into the heavy groove stuff after a while.”

People will be “dancing like crazy” in Steamboat, when The Motet plays at 9 tonight at Levelz.

“When we see the audience dancing, we feed off that,” Watts said. “It makes us feel like our instruments are dancing.”

The Motet have been known to play and sing several songs in Spanish, and then segue into a classic jazz-funk a la Herbie Hancock or right out of the Blue Note heyday. Every song, however, includes lots of percussion. Every band member has some sort of congo, djembe or shaker handy, ready to add to the mix.

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Speaking of Hancock, The Motet has dedicated entire sets to playing songs by one of their influences, such as Hancock, Fela Kuti, The Beatles or Stevie Wonder.

“This spring, we’re seeing a lot of the Afro-beat stuff,” band manager Dave Ratner said. “They did an entire set of Fela Kuti stuff at their New Year’s Eve show in Durango. Being able to do that shows this is a really solid group of musicians.

After a three-month break from touring this winter, The Motet will be going into the studio in April, and they are using their current Colorado tour to test some of their new material, Watts said.

The band spent some time with these new tunes in February, playing “The Motet Playground” — a series of shows in an intimate jazz club in Denver.

“We use a set list and try to focus on material, but we allow sections to be open-ended with the most improvisation possible,” Watts said. “At The Motet Playground, we started shows from scratch to see where it led us. Melodies are important to identifying your sound, and we have extended arrangements that allow us to change the direction of the music or follow a groove.”

The Motet has collaborated with an impressive array of musicians including Steely Dan, The Wailers, String Cheese Incident, Widespread Panic, Galactic, The Slip, Sound Tribe Sector Nine, Rebirth Brass Band and more.

Though The Motet has evolved with several new musicians in the mix, it sticks to its roots of various jazz styles and improvisational blends.