If you combined Groucho Marx with Marco Polo, Gomer Pyle and Albert Einstein and gave them a drum set they would probably play exactly like the funny, explorative, country-boy genius Matt Wilson.
I first met Matt a couple of years after he had arrived here in the big apple back in 1992. It was then that we started working together with beautiful singer Carla White and soon after with the band of saxophone/flute virtuoso Thomas Chapin as well as with the band of bass master/composer Mario Pavone. I remember our first meeting at a rehearsal for Carla White and thinking how easy it was to play with this guy and how simple he played yet how hard he could swing. And as he opened up more on each tune I loved how he would twist his simple ideas into something much deeper and wider exploring each song from many different angles. I liked playing with Matt right away.
Since that first day Matt and I have played together hundreds of times and I have come to realize that what I like the most about him is that he doesn't play like anybody else. Oh he does have elements of many other great drummers but it always seems as if he is simply talking on his drums. I always feel like I am having a creative conversation with him. And like all good conversations ours has intelligence, humor, freedom and a sense of equal participation. It always feels like Matt is listening carefully to what I have to say and then responding back with his own ideas. To me this is one of the most important ingredients in great-improvised music. I also love how Matt uses a wide variety of color in his playing to help give each piece a special shape and texture. And he's not afraid to be unconventional using silverware or knitting needles instead of drumsticks or playing air drums or picking up the snare drum and playing directly on the snares. There are no stylistic restrictions playing with Matt. He also likes a bit of the theatrical when he performs with his own group where rubber chickens and wigs are not an uncommon sight. Anything goes when you play with Matt!
Matt grew up in the country town of Knoxville Illinois and began playing drums at a very early age studying a wide variety of music. After high school he went off to see if he could play with the big city slickers in Witchita Kansas where he studied at Witchita State University which has a very fine jazz program. In 1987 Matt gave up the country life and moved to Boston where he quickly became part of the jazz scene there playing with people like John Medeski, Charlie Kohlhase and the very creative Either/Orchestra. But Boston was not to be the last stop on Matt's journey out of the countryside. In 1992 he moved on down the road to the biggest truck stop of them all. Since arriving in New York City Matt has become one of the most sought after drummers around working with a wide variety of great musicians including Dewey Redman, Bill Mays, Cecil McBee, Dave Liebman, Sheila Jordan, Lee Konitz, Fred Hersch, Ray Anderson, Joanne Brackeen and too many more to mention. He also has become a favorite on the education scene and has given many creative jazz workshops throughout the U.S., Japan and South America.
For the past five years Matt has been recording as a leader and sideman for Palmetto Records. Check out his first for them called As Wave Follows Wave with Dewey Redman, Cecil McBee and Larry Goldings. Great! Or the next two with his own band of Andrew D'Angelo and Joel Frahm on saxophones and Yosuke Inoue on bass entitled Going Once Going Twice and Smile. Matt's most recent recording is with a more traditional style band including Terrell Stafford on trumpet, Dennis Irwin on bass and Larry Goldings on piano. This one is called Arts and Crafts. Also check out a great recording I made with Matt in a trio of Mario Pavone's called Remembering Thomas "" Nu Trio which was chosen as the best traditional jazz recording of the year a couple of years ago by the Association for Independent Recording Artists.
Down Beat recently chose Matt as one of the "25 For the Future" and Jazz Thing Magazine (Germany) selected him as one of the "12 Delightful Drummers Worldwide". Back in 1997 the New York Jazz Critics Circle named him "Best New Artist". Clearly Matt Wilson is a musician to watch and most importantly to listen to.
Keep your eyes out for him in your town!
Hope you had great New Years! Keep in touch!