Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Matt Wilson's Arts and Crafts - An Attitude for Gratitude (Palmetto, 2012)

When it comes to making jazz fun and accessible without pandering, few people do it better than drummer and composer Matt Wilson. Accompanied by his Arts & Crafts group, consisting of: Terell Stafford trumpet, Gary Versace on piano, organ and accordion and Martin Wind on bass. Together they make for a swinging band that has its roots in the progressive hard-bop of the mid 1960's but plays with a thoroughly modern sensibility. "Poster Boy" leads off the album with mid-tempo horn and nice propulsive drumming playing a nimble melody. There is a supple and classy piano, bass and drums section, before the quartet pulls together under gales of brassy horn. "Happy Days are Here Again" is played as a subtle ballad with brushes and muted horn. Versace's subtle piano probes along with patient bass and drums. "Little Boy with the Sad Eyes" begins with slow building organ and trumpet like a sunrise, or the beginning of a religious service. The music kicks into swinging jazz with trumpet heralding the change in speed along with bubbling organ. There's a thick bass solo, then trumpet blazes in in trading phrases. The music has become strong quartet jazz at this point reminiscent of a Blue Note organ jam. Everybody really inspired and cookin' hard. It's a long collective improvisation that stays fresh for over nine minutes featuring really nice swirling organ and drum work that keep things moving along briskly. Wind's bass is featured quite a bit with some excellent bowed work near the end. "You Bet" has brisk drums leading off the rhythmic track with ripe piano and trumpet support building a melody suitable for dancing. Really interesting supple drum work supports, kept up throughout, nothing flashy, just continually thoughtful. There's an elastic bass solo to go along with the ever shifting percussive rhythm, full band takes out swinging hard. Strong drum rolls and a fast beginning morphs into hard swinging with "Bubbles" which adds smears of trumpet and accordion. Wilson is all over his drum kit as the music shifts dynamically. Fading into a fast driving swing with strong drums and trumpet, the swirling accordion and strong drums add a different texture to the music - manic, yet fun. Wind takes another fine bass solo unaccompanied before a spoken word recitation begins. "Cruise Blues" is a slow patient ballad where gentle waves of trumpet are lapping at the cymbals and piano chords like the ocean on the beach at sunset. Things pick back up with "No Outerwear" moving back into solid mid tempo terrain, with a nice spot for Versace who is the utility player on this album, covering all the bases. This was a really fun and entertaining album. Wilson is the perfect ambassador for jazz, bringing his infectious music around the country and the world. That he's been through challenges and still remains grateful makes him all the more admirable. An Attitude for Gratitude - amazon.com

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