Denver-based masters of funk and groove, The Motet brought their brand of Rocky Mountain jazzy rhythms to The Village at Squaw Valley on Saturday to headline the first day of the Jazz, Funk & Brews Festival. They found it feeling a lot like home.
“Damn!” was a fitting opener that by its conclusion had many in the audience exclaiming exactly that in appreciation. Once vocalist Lyle Divinsky steps onstage to front one of the tightest bands you’ll ever hear live, his energy and positive vibe is unavoidable. Divinsky engages, directs, praises and dances anytime he’s in view of the crowd and, oh and by the way, he can sing like a MoFo.
Drummer and original founder Dave Watts and bassist Garrett Sayers lay down a flawless foundation that leans more jazz and afrobeat than bass slappin’ funk. Ryan Jalbert’s guitar work and Joey Porter’s mastery of the keys create a rhythmic bed for horn players Drew Sayers (saxophone) and Gabe Mervine (trumpet) to punch and riff through. Divinsky sings, moves and smiles his way over the top of it all with lyrics that include super catchy chorus hooks on tunes such as “Back It Up,” “Danger,” “So High,” and “Jam.” They’re an impressive package. Cliff Porter, whose own Reno funk outfit Jelly Bread had opened the day’s music, was right behind me, simply marveling at the supreme synchronization and musicianship of the septet.
Early versions of The Motet were strictly instrumental and a couple of times per show Divinsky exits for a brief rest while the band shifts back to its roots. “Rippin’ Herb” and The Fountain” showed off jazzy, up-tempo, horn-infused jam chops from Sayers and Mervine, with guitar solo speed from Jalbert. When they decided to slow it down a bit and dig into some greasy funk, Joey Porter’s fingers would work their magic, enhanced with some stylistic talkbox effect vocals.
By the time they’d finished with a lengthy “Jam” > “Keep On” encore, they had poured out two-plus hours of musical intensity. The Motet played a sold-out show at Crystal Bay’s Crown Room this past winter and in an interview shared that they were blown away by the reception and energy they felt in the room. I was there that night and it certainly was well beyond a typical CBC show. Even the folks all the way in the rear booths were up and dancing. After what seemed to be a similar experience in the Olympic Valley, it’s safe to say that the area has a thirst for The Motet that they need to continue to attempt to quench.
Brews, Jazz & Funk Festival
The Village at Squaw Valley, Aug. 12, 2017
Back It Up
Fool No More
Know It Too Well
Closed Mouth Don’t Get Fed
Jam > Keep On