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.”