Friday, January 17, 2014

Matt Wilson review - NYC Jazz Record

Matt Wilson
Gathering Call

It seems unlikely that there was a lunch break for this 
recording. The accompanying notes are union specific 
about the session: “Recorded January 29th, 2013 at 
Maggie’s Farm from 12:00pm – 6:30pm.” Breakfast was 
probably pretty good but if drummer Matt Wilson and 
Company wanted to churn out a 13-tune set of originals 
and standards, they probably had to hold out for 
dinner. The results were worth the fast.

Wilson’s quartet consists of two horns, saxophonist 
Jeff Lederer and cornet player Kirk Knuffke, and 
bassist Chris Lightcap. Lederer and Knuffke are 
constantly intertwined throughout the recording, 
frequently echoing each other’s phrases, if not starting 
new ones before the other finishes. Although billed as 
a “plus”, pianist John Medeski is a major component 
on what is really a session by the Matt Wilson Quintet.

The band opens with a popping version of 
Ellington’s “Main Stem”. Knuffke and Lederer 
introduce themselves with overlapping solos, pushed 
by Wilson’s confident thump. Medeski says a short 
hello and the tune is over in less than three minutes. 

The late bassist Butch Warren’s “Barack Obama” is 
treated with grace, Lightcap taking a brief solo that is 
more space than sound before Lederer offers a 
stuttering clarinet solo and Medeski floats like stardust, 
never descending from the upper registers.

Six of the tunes are Wilson’s. Medeski’s gloves 
come off for “Some Assembly Required”, pummeling 
the piano with every knuckle and sideways elbow. 
Knuffke steps in amid the fisticuffs to thread his way 
overhead. “How Ya Going?” boasts waxy horn 
harmonies reminiscent of Ornette Coleman’s early 
experiments while Medeski skitters around the 
simmering quartet, dropping spiky, dissonant lines.

The real curveball is BeyoncĂ©’s “If I Were A Boy”, 
handled with a stronger backbeat than the original, 
giving Knuffke all the room in the world to state the 
melody. Crashing cymbals step in midway as Lederer 
takes a throaty solo over Knuffke’s simultaneous 
bursts. The cover works, swaggering under its 
reinvention, a refreshing addition to the jazz canon. 

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