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Nolatet: Raising a Bigger Dust Cloud

For their second album, Nolatet expand their sound with a few visits to the percussion closet

Nolatet (L to R): James Singleton, Brian Haas, Mike Dillon, Johnny Vidacovich
Nolatet (L to R): James Singleton, Brian Haas, Mike Dillon, Johnny Vidacovich (photo: Zack Smith)

Dusk was giving way to a cool spring Jazz Fest night at the Music Box Village, an outdoor hamlet of musical shanties and sound-making structures by New Orleans’ Industrial Canal, when Mike Dillon of Nolatet delivered a solo-ending “thwap” to his vibes. He paused and smiled, his mallets uncharacteristically still for more than a few bars while bassist James Singleton and drummer Johnny Vidacovich dug into the tune. When pianist Brian Haas picked up a melodica, looking cautious as he waited for the right moment to dive in, Dillon selected a piece from his handheld percussion arsenal and set up a restrained layer of sound beneath the building drum solo.

“One of our secret weapons with Nolatet is all four of us barely ever play at the same time,” Haas says a few days later. “Maybe on the head, maybe on melodies. After that, it’s a trio, it’s a duo, it’s just one person.”

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