Founded in 1996, the Matt Wilson Quartet took shape in order to explore new and interesting ways of expressing mainstream jazz. Without a piano or a guitar to provide obvious harmonic concepts, the band has to rely on its two saxophonists and bassist for overlaps that carry the mood. Consequently, the song list avoids too many choices from the common formula. Humidity
includes two; the others are originals.
Jimmy McHugh’s “Don’t Blame Me” features alto and tenor circling to a slow ballad interpretation with brushes laying down a smooth backdrop. Tadd Dameron’s “Our Delight” forges straight-ahead in a Charlie Parker mood. The absence of piano here does open up the performance and, quite noticeably, leaves considerable open space. While the arrangement is unique, it fails to close the voices sufficiently. Far apart, the quartet’s voices appear to be rambling.
Wilson has titled his compositions with honest impressions. “Code Yellow” looks at our post-September-11th state of being. “Wall Shadows” dances mysteriously along darkened hallways, while “Raga” invites Asian cultural ties.
“Humidity” stands apart with its large number of percussion textures and electric bass pulses alongside avant-garde trumpet, trombone and violin. The band takes a clear stand. Their voices rain together and melt slowly into one big pot.
Humidity connects two poles of jazz. Wilson’s “Thank You Billy Higgins” emphasizes straight-ahead class, while the title track goes for the spirit of Lester Bowie. The album crosses bridges that need to be crossed more often.