CD review

Matt Wilson Quartet – “Hug!”

Matt Wilson Quartet – Hug!
(Palmetto PM2196. CD Review by Jon Turney)

If you need music to lift your spirits in gloomy times, Matt Wilson is a sure bet. The drummer conveys an adventurous spirit even while digging deep into jazz tradition and maintaining an unswerving commitment to hard-swinging time-keeping. His touch at the kit always feels good.

Wilson has played with nearly everyone, as the best drummers do, but also kept regular bands going, notably this quartet. He’s always kept great company. His first recording as leader featured Dewey Redman, Cecil McBee, and Larry Goldings: a pretty stellar crew for your debut. That was back in 1996, also on the Palmetto label. The long-time collaborators on this new CD are of similar calibre, with Jeff Lederer on sax, cornetist Kirk Knuffke and bassist Chris Lightcap completing the line-up.

The repertoire he explores with them here is cleverly eclectic. There are pieces by Gene Ammons, Abdullah Ibrahim and Charlie Haden, the excellent song-like Joie de Vivre, taken from an early Dewey Redman album, and a delicious treatment of Roger Miller’s King of the Road, a song made for the snappy bass’n’brushes backing it enjoys here behind Lederer’s slinky clarinet.

Wilson’s own compositions are a match for these fine tunes, including Sonny and Share, a backhanded tribute to Sonny and Cher that actually sounds like an Ornette Coleman tune, the sweet ballad Every Day With You and and South African influenced closer Hambe Kahle. I could have done without hearing Donald Trump’s voice on Space Force, which satirises Trump’s orbital military ambitions. with a segue into Sun Ra. Every jazz player wants to make a political statement these days, and who can blame them? But this one – well, Fables of Faubus it ain’t.

But that’s just a moment’s interruption to a programme where every other track is equally, but differently enjoyable. The players respond happily to Wilson’s wish to lean in the direction each tune takes them: “the song is the fifth member of the band”, he declares. When it comes to solos, they all do brilliantly. Knuffke in particular spins fresh melody that is perfect for each song, but the others are no less committed to bringing out the special qualities of each piece. Together, they are a band that can play anything they like, and make it their own.

 

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. jonturney.co.uk.  Twitter: @jonWturney 

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