The bane of any reviewer: clearly well-played music that scarcely moves him an inch. I’m sorry, but I simply haven’t the mental capacity, musical acumen or whatever it takes to appreciate Humidity, drummer Matt Wilson's fifth album for Palmetto Records, even though Wilson and his companions are first-class players who are giving it everything they have.
I suppose I’m stuck in some sort of time warp, as today’s avant-garde jazz leaves me far more bewildered than gladdened. Whatever my bias, Wilson is a marvelous drummer anyone can hear that but his music, while sometimes interesting, is seldom emotionally rewarding, at least to these ears. I have a low tolerance for bleating, braying, screeching, growling and other jarring techniques used by the various horns (Andrew D’Angelo, Jeff Lederer, guests John Carlson and Curtis Hasselbring) to express their point of view. Beg pardon, gentlemen, but I’ve been around long enough to remember Zoot, Stan, Clifford, Sonny, even Prez, Bird, Diz and so many other legendary voices that I’m unimpressed by dissonance posing as innovation.
Tadd Dameron’s “Our Delight” isn’t bad (D’Angelo’s solo calls to mind Eric Dolphy) but Wilson and the others even manage to sterilize a lovely ballad, “Don’t Blame Me,” which deserves better (even though Lederer’s tenor solo is perhaps his best). As for Wilson’s compositions (he wrote everything else except for D’Angelo’s “Free Willy”), I found it hard to warm to any of them except the rhythmic “Thank You Billy Higgins” and evocative “Raga,” which makes the most of its East Indian motif. These pieces enable Wilson to pull out all the stops and show his prowess as a jazz drummer who is blessed with superior creativity and resourcefulness. From that standpoint, at least, the album is an unqualified success.
As for the rest, we can only try to remember where we are coming from and judge accordingly, as there are many who lean toward jazz that crosses customary boundaries and in doing so exposes a cutting edge. Humidity certainly does that, and does it well.
Contact: Palmetto Records, 71 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011 (phone 1–800– PALMCDS).
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