Drummer Matt Wilson has a style and sound that just naturally seems to result in bouts of euphoria. Whether swinging like mad or hard driving head first, Wilson is emphatic in his approach, and the logical reaction is to sit up, take notice, and smile. Even on a rare moody track, there’s a joyfulness that’s tough to miss. With a stellar line-up and simpatico modes of communication, Wilson’s crew burns through a set of straight-ahead tunes that just sing with a wild enthusiasm.
Your album personnel: Matt Wilson (drums), Jeff Lederer (tenor & soprano saxophones, clarinet), Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Chris Lightcap (bass), and John Medeski (piano).
Wilson opens the album with a rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Main Stem,” and gets things off to a brisk pace. Lederer and Knuffke trade volleys on sax and cornet, feeding off the high voltage established with the very first notes.
“Main Stem” is one of a couple Ellington tunes he hits upon, of which about half of the album’s thirteen tracks are renditions, the other half Wilson originals. Second track “Some Assembly Required” falls into the latter category, with the kind of crazed motion and serious concentration associated with children skipping rope in tandem… and equally as fun.
“Dancing Waters” is another Wilson original, and illustrates that his writing talents aren’t all just a matter of high octane. Opening with a nifty Lightcap bass solo, this leads into long slow sighs from the wind instruments… a place where the melancholy is a construct of beauty and nothing about its expression is bittersweet.
This leads seamlessly into the thick groove and funky swagger of the Hugh Lawson tune “Get Over, Get Off and Get On.” Channeling the spirited charm of Yusef Lateef’s late-60s outfit, Medeski incites the act of motion with his lively piano work and sets the groundwork for some crack solos by Knuffke and Lederer.
As a tribute to recently deceased jazz legend Butch Warren, Wilson includes the Warren composition “Barack Obama” on this session. Intriguingly, Wilson delivers it with light tones of delicate sadness, of that meeting point where sorrow and celebration come together and transform into something of a wistful, comforting blues.
The title-track “Gathering Call” is a short piece, and it comes on fast and furious. This differs from Wilson’s other rendition of an Ellington tune… on “You Dirty Dog,” Lightcap’s walking bass line develops a cadence not unlike a cool stroll down the street, where motion has both a confident bravado and a light touch. On tenor sax, Lederer belts out a solo, loading up with each punch.
Wilson’s “Hope (for the cause)” takes a minute to reveal itself before coalescing into a beautiful, drifting melodic passage. His interlude “Dreamscape,” on the other hand, gets right to the point with a clattering of sticks, piano twittering excitedly, and wind instruments punchy and irrepressible.
Perpetually overlapping lines of communication highlight the animated “How Ya Going?” It gives the sense of one conversation breaking off into complementary fragments, reuniting at strategic words and phrases, and revealing that it has always been one conversation from the very start.
Wilson continues the Jazz tradition of adapting modern pop songs for Jazz performance with a rendition of Beyonce’s “If I Were A Boy,” and like those who came before him, Wilson susses out the melodic facets and possibilities unaddressed by the original. Wilson sticks to the melody’s original path, allowing tangential diversions from its course to add some depth and nuance. Substituting the original’s melodramatic flourishes with a bit of intense deconstruction is a nifty swap of emotional devices, and brings out a new aspect of the song’s character.
“Pumpkin’s Delight,” an up-tempo burner of Charlie Rouse’s from his Sphere days, sees the album in its homestretch. The quintet toys with tempo a bit here, as a fierce Lederer sax solo feeds into a Medeski piano solo that leaps and lags with an enticing playfulness… an effect punctuated by a thrilling Wilson drum solo.
The album ends with the traditional love song “Juanita,” a lovely tune expressed with a loving grace and noble elegance by the quintet, concluding the album on a quieter note but no less evocative than its predecessors. Outstanding.
Wilson’s newest is what Jazz is all about. This album has all kinds of heart.
Released on Palmetto Records.
Jazz from NYC.
While most of this review is original to Bird is the Worm, some of it was written when I originally recommended Gathering Call in my weekly eMusic Jazz Picks column… so here’s some language protecting eMusic’s rights to the reprinted material as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…
“New Arrivals Jazz Picks,“ reprints courtesy of eMusic.com, Inc.
© 2014 eMusic.com, Inc.
As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.