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Artist Profiles

Matt Wilson: Connecting with the People

By Published: February 10, 2005
"He really invited a lot of people to be creative," Wilson explained. "It was a wild time. Coming up with some crazy stuff to do." Wilson once performed a ballet by composer Walter Mays, called "War Games." The percussion ensemble included a jackhammer on steel beam and a 357 magnum. The ballerinas were wrestlers, including Bull Dog Bob Brown.

"All this stuff has influenced me in thinking 'you know I can try this'. If you can come up with some sort of way of inviting people in... The other day I listened to this piece I did with a farm auctioneer," he said, referring to xxx from his record Going Once Going Twice. I was thinking 'this is really strange' and 'wow that's pretty cool to get to do'."

Goldings remembered that during his first gig with Wilson, the drummer, while in the midst of a solo, began glancing around. He spotted a wooden chair and dragged it across the stage. "I was sort of chuckling at it but mostly sort of admiring the spontaneity and creativity behind the idea of using a prop for sonic and visual reasons. I thought here's a guy who really goes for it when he performs and I admire that a lot."

An avid teacher, Wilson also uses visuals to help kids understand music. Last year Arts & Crafts brought a program called "Jazz Music Happens Now" to 22 New York City public schools. To show the students the moods in music, and the flexibility of musicians, Wilson created a series of signs. Two students stood on stage. Each held a sign. One, featuring a type of facial expression determined the mood (cheerful, gloomy), while the other called the groove (busy, sparse).

"What I wanted the kids to walk away with was that they knew the music was happening right there in front of them. That it will never be the same ever again," Wilson explained. "So when they go to a jazz concert they're witnessing something special. And they'll cherish that experience along with the musicians." Educating listeners is a big goal for Wilson, but he's also focusing on some simpler achievements, like progressing as an artist, and developing his relationships.

Lee Konitz once confided to Wilson that what he wants to do with the rest of his life is to continue what he has been doing, but do it better. "There you go. There's one of those lessons that you get. That's one of those moments that I stored up there," he said with reverence. "I like keeping these bands working and I like going out and playing for the people as much as possible. If I keep getting experiences like this I'll be satisfied. Just keep going out and trying to reach people and bring some happiness to some folk's lives. I don't think we always know how important it is sometimes as a musician, an artist, how important it is to go out and do this. It's really important to have this human connection and I think this music represents that really well. Just keep getting a chance to keep experience this."

Recommended Listening:

Charlie Kohlhase - Good Deeds (Accurate, 1992)

Matt Wilson - As Wave Follows Wave (Palmetto, 1996)

Mario Pavone/Nu Trio - Remembering Thomas (Knitting Factory, 1999)

Matt Wilson - Smile (Palmetto, 1999)

Lee Konitz/Matt Wilson - Gong with Wind Suite (SteepleChase, 2002)

Matt Wilson - Wake Up! (To What's Happening) (Palmetto, 2004)

Visit Matt Wilson on the web.

Read Matt Wilson CD Reviews at AAJ.

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