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Interviews

Matt Wilson: Have Drums, Will Travel

By Published: February 13, 2012
AAJ: That's a long time.

MW: It was a long time—especially with this day and age, that's a long time for anybody to tour. I mean, that was, like, unprecedented for Joe and Johnny; well, Johnny is out a lot. But it's a lot—and I learned so much from that. I learned about energy and lift, and so on. The other night, I'm sitting downstairs at the Stone while other people improvise. I'm just sitting there. I have never met Thurston Moore, I'm a big Sonic Youth fan, and I am thinking, "Wow, I am sitting here talking with Thurston Moore!" We were talking about Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
1936 - 1970
sax, tenor
! I love the stories, and that's another thing is, you get around these cool folks; you get to hear their stories.



AAJ: Whom did you come up with as contemporaries?

MW: Andy D'Angelo, John Carlson
John Carlson
John Carlson

trumpet
, Curtis Hasselbring. I don't see some of those guys as consistently as I would like. David Berkman. Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas
b.1963
trumpet
lived in the same neighborhood. Jeff Lederer has been part of my life for a long time. Joel Frahm
Joel Frahm
Joel Frahm

sax, tenor
I met in the first couple of months I was here, and we still play a lot. Frank Kimbrough
Frank Kimbrough
Frank Kimbrough
b.1956
piano
, Ben Allison
Ben Allison
Ben Allison
b.1966
bass, acoustic
, Michael Blake
Michael Blake
Michael Blake
b.1964
saxophone
, Ted Nash
Ted Nash
Ted Nash
b.1960
sax, tenor
, Wycliffe Gordon
Wycliffe Gordon
Wycliffe Gordon
b.1967
trombone
and Marcus Printup
Marcus Printup
Marcus Printup
b.1967
trumpet
.

And then there were people that I always wanted to play with that were that generation above, so people like Mark Dresser
Mark Dresser
Mark Dresser
b.1952
bass, acoustic
and Ray Anderson
Ray Anderson
Ray Anderson
b.1952
trombone
and Marty Ehrlich
Marty Ehrlich
Marty Ehrlich
b.1955
reeds
. When I was living in Boston, these guys were a part of the new thing, and now they are friends. Adam Nussbaum
Adam Nussbaum
Adam Nussbaum
b.1955
drums
, and then people on the West Coast like John Clayton
John Clayton
John Clayton
b.1952
bass, acoustic
and Jeff Clayton
Jeff Clayton
Jeff Clayton
b.1954
saxophone
who I admired for a long time. You come up through admiring these people, and then you are a part of their world, but, man, to have Buster Williams be like what you consider one of your friends—it's like, "Wow." I remember one day we were traveling, and we were looking at coats or something together, and I am, like, "This is cool, man." Or one time I was on stage with Charlie Haden, a Trio concert with Charlie and Dewey Redman in Montreal, and I actually laid out for a second just to listen to those guys, and I actually reached down and grabbed my legs to say, "I am really here." I am not being melodramatic about it but it was, "Wow, I am really here. This is pretty cool."

AAJ: Dewey bridges a lot of worlds.

MW: Well, see, there again, I came from this tree of people that did a lot of that.

AAJ: So it was never not possible?

MW: That's right, and growing up, I had to play a lot of different kinds of music just to get to play a lot. If I said, "I am only going to play jazz," well there wasn't going to be too much playing in Galesburg and Knoxville, and then maybe not even in Wichita. So luckily I learned, and I played with my blues bands, played in country bands, I played in rockabilly bands.

AAJ: Tell me a little bit about your involvement with WeeBop, how that started and why that is important to you.

MW: Well, the WeeBop project—I mean, I have done a lot of education stuff for Jazz at Lincoln Center. It started with doing the Jazz in the Schools programs. I have done two tours of those where we went around New York City public schools. One was a program called "Jazz: Music That Happens Now, In the Moment," and we did them all over the place. It was great. Then a couple of years ago, my good friend Erika Floreska—who was, at the time, the Director of Education at Jazz Lincoln Center—asked me to do a young people's concert—it would have been in June of 2010, I believe—called "What is Free Jazz," and we did that. It was really great. That was with the quartet, and Marshall Allen from Sun Ra Band was our guest. This guy is 86 years old—now he's 87, I think; he might even be 88. Man, what an energy, what a vibe. He is so welcoming, so beautiful, so great with the kids, so great with us, so great with everybody, and so we did that one. I am doing one in February—with Arts & Crafts, called "What is Improvisation?"—that we are currently putting together, which I think will be a blockbuster. I think it is going to be really great. For WeeBop, they wanted to do a record to surround the classes, though I had no involvement with the classes, per se. They wanted me to be involved with the musical directing of the record and production. I went to the meetings, and we had ideas. We threw them around and then—with Samantha Samuels, who is one of the producers, and Jeff Lederer—we put together a really great record. I think it is really happening.

I call it a family record because I think very small kids will dig it and older kids will dig it and adults will, too. It is kind of like watching Shrek or when we see a really great Sesame Street episode. I still am fascinated by those shows because they draw everybody in; everybody gets something. I think that is what we have accomplished with this record.


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