Feb 25 2012
Always an inventive musician, drummer Matt Wilson seems to have no intention of reaching a creative plateau. With each subsequent recording, compositions grow increasingly ingenious, with the most impressive characteristic being that even as he experiments, Wilson never loses that essential swing. Teamed up with his Arts & Crafts quartet, we get another gem of an album.
The album has a nice mix of swinging tunes, like opener “Poster Boy,” and quieter pieces, like “Cruise Blues,” but Wilson seems to have arrived at a place as composer and musician where nothing is quite that simple and nothing should be assumed based on first impressions. His track record, at this point, proves that listeners are doing themselves an injustice if they let their attention span drift.
Lemme talk about a couple tunes that really resonated with me.
“The Little Boy With Sad Eyes” (streamed above) begins with a heartbreakingly pretty opening, and the combination of the song title and the tune’s head would lead one to believe that it’s gonna be nine minutes of sadness. But before long, it’s Versace on organ clearing the grey skies away, Wilson getting the heart rate up, and Stafford turning a solemn church event into a joyful gathering. When Wind plays some arco on bass as Stafford brings the heat, that melancholy opening is a distant memory and all that’s left is the swing. My favorite song on a fantastic album.
The excellent “There’s No You”, a Stafford solo interlude, leads into “Stolen Time”, which begins with Wilson and Wind setting a frenetic pace, contrasted by Versace’s piano and Stafford’s trumpet fluttering just over the surface of the rhythm. It gives the impression of a leaves bouncing delicately through the air as the wind swirls dramatically about them. The tune has a strong sense of randomness to it as heard through the playing of the individual instruments, yet there is an undeniable cohesion, and that juxtaposition between their roles as individuals and the sum of their contribution to the tune as a whole makes for both an exciting and engaging affair. My second favorite song on the album.
Really worth mentioning that Wilson ends the album with a cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, a beautiful tune in its original form but which has led to some awful, though well-meaning covers. Wilson lets Versace take the reins, keeping a gentle patter in the background while Versace tweaks the melody in a way that maintains its soul, yet keeps the ear perpetually unscrambling his take on it. That an ensemble can succeed where others have failed isn’t necessarily a failsafe method for measuring talent, but it sure is pretty strong evidence. It’s a beautiful finish to the album, and Wilson would’ve done me a favor had he simply repeated the song several times in a row and saved me the trouble of having to hit the replay button each time the song ends.
A great album by great musicians. I recommend listening through Wilson’s discography, as well as those by members of the Arts & Crafts quartet.
Here’s a nifty live performance from the quartet…
Released on the Palmetto Records label. If you purchase an album download directly from them, they do offer FLAC as an option. Gotta respect that.
Also, you can stream the entire album on Palmetto’s site, here.
Download a free album track from AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist and label.