Matt Wilson Quartet: Humidity (2003)
An eclectic drummer, thinker, and bandleader, Matt Wilson shuns fixed stylistic boundaries. He’s endlessly curious and adventuresome, but invariably backs up imaginative leaps in conception and execution with solid musicianship and organizational skills. Humidity, Wilson’s fourth outing for Palmetto, finds his working quartet (plus violin, trumpet, and trombone on a few cuts) fully inhabiting every one of the twelve diverse tracks. The band invests both a continuous state of flux and sense of methodical development to the spacey, disjointed funk of the title track, the unrelenting swing of “Free Willy,” and the pristine beauty of “Wall Shadows.”
The classic Ornette Coleman quartets and trios serve as a point of reference for “Thank You Billy Higgins!”, the disc’s opening track. Fueled by the leader and Yosuke Inoue’s bass, a shifting, three-part theme turns into a joyous rush of momentum supporting Jeff Lederer’s tenor sax. Although he’s paying homage to Higgins, Wilson’s drumming also resembles two of Coleman’s stalwart colleagues, Ed Blackwell and Charles Moffettespecially during the bustling, march-tinged cadences that interact with Andrew D’Angelo’s alto sax. The drummer’s solo is a model of intelligent, cleanly executed, thematic playing that, despite its precision, never stops bounding forward.
The standard “Don’t Blame Me” serves as an example of one of the ways in which Wilson and the band discard or alter conventional forms, dodge expectations, and still come up with a holistic performance. It begins with a somber, out-of-tempo, slightly dissonant melody as Wilson’s brushes seem to flap in different directions. Then a bit of drama is induced by a brief, obsessive motif played by the horns. Sounding both tough and tender, Lederer’s tenor follows for the remainder of the track, approximating a conventional, almost romantic ballad style, over a sparse bass and drums foundation.
Track Listing: 1. Thank You Billy Higgins!; 2. Swimming In The Trees; 3. Cooperation; 4. Free Willy; 5. Wall Shadows; 6. Raga; 7. Code Yellow; 8. Humidity; 9. Don't Blame Me; 10. Our Delight; 11. All My Children; 12. Beginning Of A Memory.
Personnel: Andrew D'Angelo--alto saxophone, bass clarinet, and handbells. Jeff Lederer--tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, and handbells. Yosuke Inoue--acoustic bass, electric bass, and handbells. Felicia Wilson--violin (2, 8, and 12). John Carlson--trumpet (2), and pocket trumpet (8). Curtis Hasselbring--trombone (8).