Everybody knows about New Orleans' rich musical tradition - but an even more deeply rooted tradition in the Crescent City is one of perpetual reinvention. It's a city that's been reborn countless times over the course of its multi-cultural history, a legacy vibrantly reflected in its music.
With the release of their debut album, Dogs, in 2016, the Nolatet - vibraphonist Mike Dillon, pianist Brian Haas, bassist James Singleton and drummer Johnny Vidacovich - added their own new twist to the New Orleans tradition. Now the quartet returns with their much-anticipated follow-up, 'No Revenge Necessary,' which takes the music through as many winding turns and colorful pathways as a Second Line parade route.
"Dogs was beginner's luck," says Singleton. "We had just started as a band, and we managed to somehow pull together a cohesive program. To me that small miracle was a good omen for the future."
That omen proves true in myriad ways on 'No Revenge Necessary,' released via Royal Potato Family, which finds the band getting alternately (and often simultaneously) funky and ferocious, playful and profound, high-spirited and movingly solemn, irreverent, iconoclastic, and tapped into the bloodline that flows through the veins of every New Orleans musician.
After criss-crossing the country together touring behind 'Dogs' Haas says, "we can take bigger musical risks in the studio and not fall on our butts. The more you play improvised music with the same line-up the luckier you can get as a band. This new album is WAY rowdier and riskier." As Dillon adds, "a year of touring and festivals has made this band of unique improvisers stand on an island beyond the normal jazz arms race."
While 'Dogs' was the first time these four came together as a unit, there was plenty of history already shared between them. Singleton and Vidacovich can boast more than four decades of playing together, during which they've established themselves as New Orleans' most revered rhythm section. Dillon and Haas have crossed paths endlessly along the routes of their relentless touring schedules with bands like Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Garage a Trois, Critters Buggin and the Dead Kenny Gs.
"The wealth of music experience amongst ourselves is why Nolatet has its own voice," says Haas. "After a few years you don't learn the other person's music - you learn the other person!"
That knowledge pays off in a sonic portrait like "Lanky, Stanky Maestro," which Haas wrote in honor of Vidacovich and which evokes an explosive barrage of rakish outbursts from the drummer. Singleton calls it "pure slop/funk/mid-city/spaghetti- eatin' grease" - and he'd know better than anyone. He continues that the "constant counterpoint conversation (including and especially the kit) is a contemporary flowering of the polyphony present in New Orleans music from 100 ears and years ago. That's how we are able to reflect the complexities of adult lives with relatively simple materials."