Nolatet – No Revenge Necessary (2018)

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The second go around by this inspired union of James Singleton (bass), Johnny Vidacovich (drums, percussion), Brian Hass (piano) and Mike Dillon (vibes, marimba, table, percussion) suggests again a Big Easy-seasoned hybrid of Astral Project, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and Garage Á Trois, and No Revenge Necessary (Royal Potato Family) delivers on that promise. Nolatet’s sophomore release has the just-right balance between nobody trying too hard and nobody holding back, either. It’s an album of attitude befitting the laid-back fearlessness aura of the city attached to this band’s name.

The charmingly sloppy “Lanky, Stinky, Maestro” is the right way to get the ball rolling, as it’s spicy and encompassing of so many styles like a good bowl of gumbo led by Haas’ gutbucket piano. Another Haas number “No Revenge Necessary” further affirms the boundless range of the four, incorporating some chamber music elements but retaining loads of character.

All of these musicians are resourceful to the extreme — I left out a few other instruments Nolatet plays for this album — but Singleton takes the cake. He jumps from fuzz-bass to bowed bass to upper-register pizzicato, and that’s just on Haas’s semi-Vaudevillian tune “Home & Debbie.” And those occasional moments when you hear a horn? That’s Singleton on a pocket trumpet.

He gets downright funky in the Medeski, Martin and Wood kind of way for “Black Sheep,” which also features that little trumpet, and Dillon on tabla. Dillon drops some Bags chops on us over his swinging “Elegant Miss J,” also spotlighting Vidacovich and his commanding snare/cymbal action and ending in Steve Reich-ian minimalism.

“Dikefinger,” one of Singleton’s four compositions, has sneaky sophistication. In fact, it seems the further along you go this Nolatet record, the more serpentine it gets. By the time we reach “Malabar,” we have that fuzz bass colliding with swing, then it breaks down into an arco bass haze and settling into a graceful ending framed by horn accents and melodica.

Very sparing use of electronic effects (I only heard some on “Bluebelly” and “Black Sheep”), not enough to call this ‘electro-acoustic,’ Nolatet stays mostly unplugged to come up with something fresh that defies categorization outside the very broad confines of ‘jazz.’ They did it before on their debut Dogs and they do it again with even more confidence for No Revenge Necessary.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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