On the heels of their debut record release just two days prior, New Orleans newest band Nolatet played one of their first official performances to a sold out crowd at Snug Harbor, one of New Orleans’ preeminent hotbeds for improvisational jazz performances. Despite the absence of Mike Dillon, drummer Johnny Vidacovich, stand-up bassist James Singleton and pianist Brian Haas pressed on, brilliantly managing to deliver an inspired and riveting eighty minute set. The trio took numerous risks on tunes like “Pops”, an airy and moody tune that jaunted far outside of the studio recording’s boundaries, providing Haas with ample space to showcase some maddeningly stunning rolls on the grand piano situated stage right.
As exciting as it was to watch each member of the trio step into the limelight for a solo, it was the fleeting, yet powerful roars of deafening silence filling the space between solos that created a tense and rewarding atmosphere. Singleton and Vidacovich’s instinctiveness demanded close attention. Vidacovich’s light brushes frequently served as an indicator that it was time to take on a new direction, a musical savoir-faire indicating that it okay to enter a new sonic phase. There were a couple tactful nods to Mike Dillon originals on the debut record during the set. Despite missing the familiar bell tones of Dillon’s vibraphone or xylo, these tunes took an ephemeral, new-fangled and smooth-edged texture.
Given the strictures of a multi-show night (this was the 8 pm show before another one at 10 on the same night) and the fact that it was only an eighty minute set, Nolatet was able to say so a lot within a relatively short timespan. Calling Nolatet a mutual respect society would be an understatement. There was certain coziness and an undefinable air of intimacy about this Sunday night gig. The sonic experiments undertaken by the three guys on stage looked to provide as big of a thrill on-stage as it did in the seats below and balcony above.