MusicMarauders Presents: Herbie Hancock Tribute 07.17.13

Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
Denver, CO

Words & Photos By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot Photography)

There are few shows, groups, or performances that I would truly see over and over again. Phish, The String Cheese Incident, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood excluded it becomes a bit repetitive when I have seen the respective project playing that night almost on a weekly basis. However, the Motet and all of it’s funkied members are one of those groups that truly know how to get a crowd excited and ready to dance their asses off to some really special music. I was fortunate enough recently to catch Joey Porter’s (Keyboard) Herbie Hancock Tribute project, which includes Motet members Garrett Sayers (Bass), Dan Schwindt (Guitar), and Dave Watts (Drums) ripping into the funky beat of Mr. Hancock song after song. This project only plays once or twice a year as it also includes Dominic Lalli, the former Motet and now Big Gigantic saxophone player along with a special guest percussionist. For this run of shows through Colorado the uber-talented Jason Hann from the String Cheese Incident was kind enough to lend a helping hand to the party.

Playing at the ever crazy and never clean Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver, the Motet and friends were able to bring the packed house to a roar with 3 or so hours of Herbie tunes. Picking pieces from Hancock’s whole music catalog, Joey Porter was able to blend the beautiful tones of acid jazz with the party-central funk fusion, which Herbie was so known for. Songs such as “Hang Up Your Hang-ups,” “Just Around the Corner,” and “Steppin’ In It” got the Denver crowd moving in the first set with the strong dance beat continually coming from the rhythm section of Sayers, Watts, and Hann. As I have said in the past, Garrett Sayers is by far one of my favorite musicians to see play and watch as his funky phalanges never seem to stop slapping that 6-string as long as he is on stage. His ability to play any type of music and blend in so perfectly with any project is what truly makes Sayers a special talent to watch, and I couldn’t be happier that I get to see him play on an almost weekly basis. Dave Watts is another rhythm junkie and there are not many drummers in the Denver area who have the talent, enthusiasm, or stage charisma that Watts possesses. Whether he is playing with the Motet, Kyle Hollingsworth Band, or his own solo projects Dave Watts can be felt from any spot in the venue, as his beats and smile are contagious.

The Motet Live at Cervantes Masterpiece on July 17, 2013.

Set One: Intro > Steppin' In It, Hang Up Your Hang-ups, Ready Or Not, Palm Grease, 4 A.M., Just Around the Corner

Set Two: Intro, Chameleon, Watermelon Man, Sunlight, Actual Proof, Tell Everybody, Sly, Spank-A-Lee

Leading off the second set with the Herbie classic’s “Chameleon” and “Watermelon Man,” the Motet’s funkified vision of what this night was going to be truly came to the forefront. Garrett Sayers and Dave Watts led the charge rhythmically and could be seen exchanging counts, chord changes, and progression interludes. Joey Porter gave us a pretty damn good rendition of his idol Herbie and the absolute pure funk that he is. Porter was moving and grooving the whole night while conducting the band, picking the various songs, and just being funky. The star of the show, and probably the main reason people came to Cervantes, Dominic Lalli, lived up to the hype and once again melted our Colorado jam-loving faces with his incredible playing stamina and huge bursts of beautiful noise. There were moments where I thought he was going to pass out due to how long he was holding a note, but all was well for this maestro of the sax. Lalli seemed like he was pushing his playing ability to the very limit with every song he joined in on, as his white t-shirt was thoroughly soaked with sweat by the end of the evening. To Lalli’s left, Jason Hann played percussion and various drum-like toys for the performance and seemed to be quite comfortable with just sitting back and letting the Motet boys do their thing.

All in all I truly thought the way Joey Porter and his funky friends handled the complexity and funky-ness of Hancock’s music is unmatched and definitely a party not to miss. I hope this project plays more often and maybe even dive deeper into Herbie’s catalog. Couldn’t you see Mr. Porter in the front of the stage on a Moog Keytar ripping it up? Whatever happens with this group I will be there and I definitely recommend you be there as well.

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