What lies beyond 

The Motet's labels don't stick

Boulder, Colo., jam-band stalwarts The Motet seem to be in a constant state of evolution. The band—or as they prefer to be called, the ensemble—incorporates a seemingly endless array of world rhythms into a music all its own—more specifically, into a shape the band’s gifted drummer and songwriter Dave Watts has molded out of his rich and varied rhythmic experience. Watts, who composes the band’s entire repertoire, attended the Berklee College of Music before hooking up with Shokra, a funk group that helped lay the foundation upon which today’s jam-band scene is built.

Strongly resistant to categorization, The Motet strives to explore what lies beyond the musicians’ immediate reach, always looking beyond predictable genres for influences and inspiration. They play like they are not easily satisfied—not just individual members, but the band as a whole. It is this constant creative turbulence that keeps audiences across the Mountain West up on their feet and shaking their bodies when The Motet comes to their towns. The whole aim of The Motet, it’s fair to say, has been to widen its musical horizons and offer listeners fresh and attractive interpretations of its music, no matter how eclectic, worldly or otherworldly the results.

While the band has long been known for its adherence to Latin, funk and jazz traditions, it has lately spread out into Afro-Beat, a genre created and named by Nigerian band leader, saxophonist and political activist Fela Kuti during his tenure playing in the U.S. in the late ’60s and early ’70s. It’s a new chapter in The Motet’s ongoing campaign to keep the labels from sticking for too long. Their latest album, Music For Life, released last July by Harmonized Records, takes eager hold of Afro-Beat without letting go of the rich textures of straight-ahead funk.

Music For Life is The Motet’s first release since 2002’s Live, and first studio album since 2001’s Play. Like any decent jam-band, though, The Motet is better heard live than on record. Not that you can’t still jam out to Music For Life, but since when is life a studio experience?

The Motet plays at The Top Hat on Friday, Aug. 27, at 9 PM. 21+. Call 728-9865.

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