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Matt Wilson's Arts And Crafts: An Attitude For Gratitude

Dan Bilawsky By

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Drummer Matt Wilson may be the supreme human confluence of technique, swing, spirit, humor and musicality. Over the past 20 years, Wilson has proven to be one of a select few that can balance an inside/outside aesthetic, often within a single piece of music. He has helped shape the music of Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, Either/Orchestra, Lee Konitz, Denny Zeitlin and many others, but his own body of recorded work highlights his unique personality and musical perspective better than any sideman date in his discography.

Wilson has built a strong body of work with both of his quartets—his namesake group and Arts And Crafts—during his fifteen year association with the Palmetto label. An Attitude for Gratitude stands as a fine addition to that list. While half of the personnel has changed since the advent of this group (bassist Martin Wind taking over for the late Dennis Irwin and keyboardist Gary Versace picking up where Larry Goldings left off), the overall, "open-to-anything" vision of the band remains intact.

Arts & Crafts shifts from off-centered, sprightly moving music (Versace's "Poster Boy") to slow and sweet balladry ("Happy Days Are Here Again") with ease, but that's only the beginning. Nat Adderley's "Little Boy With The Sad Eyes" is a swinging showcase for strong solo personalities, John Scofield's "You Bet" proves to be an enthusiastic, tropically tinged affair, and trumpeter Terell Stafford's tender solo performance of "There's No You" serves as a heartfelt tribute to Irwin, who often sang the tune when he performed with this band.

While Wilson's vision guides the band at every turn, his three compositional contributions showcase his outer thinking. "No Outerwear" is a jaunty escapade that proves to be the most normal of the three, while "Stolen Time" is a demonstration of musicians managing to connect while acting in their own loose, free-moving orbits, One of the album's most intriguing "Bubbles" is ten songs in one, the drummer delivering some solo histrionics, the band engaging in wind-up-and-wind-down maneuvers, Stafford and Versace (wielding his accordion) creating an off-kilter gondola lullaby, and Wilson reciting the Carl Sandburg poem that gives this track its name and represents the album's theme. Elsewhere, the leader moves to the background to let his band mates shine, with Stafford delivering soothing flugelhorn performances, Versace playing a peaceful rendition of Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," and Wind driving Jaco Pastorius' "Teen Town," which features a brief yet strong bass solo near the top.

Wilson plays his drums with flair and a sense of artistry that's second to none, but he does far more than that on An Attitude For Gratitude. He also plays his mind, rather than playing up to conventions of any kind, and his mind is a wonderful thing to behold.

Track Listing: Poster Boy; Happy Days Are Here Again; Little Boy With The Sad Eyes; You Bet; Bubbles; Cruise Blues; No Outerwear; Teen Town; There's No You; Stolen Time; Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Personnel: Terell Stafford: trumpet, flugelhorn; Gary Versace: piano, organ, accordion; Martin Wind: bass; Matt Wilson: drums, spoken word vocals.

Title: An Attitude For Gratitude | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Palmetto Records

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