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Matt Wilson: Beyond Category

By Published: March 27, 2003

AAJ: So what have you been listening to these days?

MW: One of the most powerful things I've purchased in a long time is this new Johnny Cash record called The Man Comes Around. I'm really drawn to any kind of folk music; I mean, I think jazz is folk music basically. I think anything that is real simple and says something without a lot of hoopla gets me so I really consider Ornette [Coleman's] music to be folk music. I heard it a listening station when I was in Boston with Lee Konitz and we went shopping for records. What is funny to me is it parallels Lee in a lot of ways. I mean here is Johnny Cash singing these very familiar songs in a no-frills way is like hearing Lee play standards.

I like production music and I've really got into these Missy Elliot records. I'm sort of intrigued by the humor in those records. Eminem for me becomes a little dark and I'm not really into that dark hip-hop vibe, but with the other stuff I like the humor relief and I love the beats and the production. I like Prince and I listen to his music quite a lot and then I buy a lot of old rock and roll records that I listened to as a kid that make me feel good. Like I bought a Cheap Trick greatest hits record and I've kind of been digging listening to that. And then I been listening to Cannonball [Adderley] records and Miles, Erroll Garner, Stan Kenton, and little things that I want to learn more about. I also try to buy stuff when I'm traveling. I mean, I came home from Brazil last year with about 15 or 20 CDs of folkloric music.

AAJ: Tell us about your work with the quartet and how you approach writing for that band.

MW: I approach it by having us play the material and then seeing what happens. And that's the great thing about having a band. I've felt like I've made some mistakes on some earlier records. I feel like the more that I make records now the more that I don't really think about what I'm going to do for them. I kind of have an idea of the tunes, but you don't really know how it's going to be until you start to put it together. It's like a novel and the best things happen when it unfolds. If there are mistakes I leave them and I do as little amount of editing as possible. I'm really proud of this record and I think it really says something about where we are at this point in time.

AAJ: So what's next for you in terms of recording projects?

MW: My next record that I'm gearing up for is my music that I've written to Carl Sandburg poetry, but I really want to do a record with a singer playing guitar and not a jazz person necessarily, but a folk type player with an improvisational spirit. I'd love to have Pete Seeger, or Johnny Cash, or Willie Nelson sing one of my songs.

AAJ: You know, before we wrap things up, I have to ask how you manage all that you do with a wife and four kids?

MW: It's a miracle. But first of all, I get to work with a lot of great people and they're pretty sympathetic to my situation. But I keep busy; I do jingles and I do records and part of the reason I do a lot of different things is because I love to do them, but then I really have to do them. I'm pretty happy when I'm playing music no matter what it is. I'm lucky in that I'm around great people pretty much about 100% of the time and I get that kind of communal spirit. I'm looking for everybody being in the game.

AAJ: What's the downside of it all?

MW: I don't have a lot of free time, like going to the movies with my wife.

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Photo Credit
Chris Hovan

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