What is the result of four eclectic music masters combining their talents? The answer is Nolatet’s brilliant debut album, Dogs. The imaginative culprits—pianist Brian Haas, vibraphonist and percussionist Mike Dillon, bassist James Singleton and drummer Johnny Vidacovich—take pens to hand for a disc full of original material. Through the years, the four have worked together in diverse configurations—from Singleton’s and Vidacovich’s decades in Astral Project to Haas and Dillon teamed up in bands like Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and Garage A Trois. They have also all joined up to perform gigs in the past.
In an ensemble made up of all rhythmic instruments played by musicians with the capacity for powerful dynamics, it comes as a surprise that Dogs’ opening cut, “Pops,” displays such a gentle nature. Written by Dillon, his vibes are first to provide the melody that is taken up by Singleton’s bowed bass. Beneath its quietude lies great passion.
The familiarity of Singleton’s “Bongo Joe,” a tune that was previously recorded by the bassist as well as Astral Project, offers a lively, rhythmic sense of happiness. It, of course, gets a new treatment here with Haas displaying his adeptness at wild, single-note runs and big, fat chords. Meantime, Vidacovich’s drums often mimic the sound of a bongo in memory of George “Bongo Joe” Coleman.
The mood of the music becomes more serious on Dillon’s and Singleton’s “Morphine Drip/Lento” with, again, the bowed bass setting the deep tone. Things start swinging on “Mellon Ball,” which finds the vibraphonist dancin’ and the pianist stompin’. With Vidacovich’s cymbals providing the splash, it’s a lot of fun.
The disc ends with an explosion that seems to sum up all the excitement that came before.