If jazz is truly an American art form and said to represent all of America, then it cannot be considered strictly an urban sound. John Coltrane might have developed his ideas in Philadelphia, but he and Thelonious Monk are from rural communities in North Carolina. Even the Brooks Brothers clad Miles Davis grew up in St. Louis but spent plenty of time on his family farm. Indeed jazz has always incorporated all of America. The music of Bill Frisell of late has shown his folk roots, just as bassist Charlie Haden’s Iowan sound has never really become urban. John Zorn’s Masada, Balkan jazz, and the Klezmer revival (although emanating from Middle East and Eastern Europe) are surely drawn from the American immigrant experience.
Drummer Matt Wilson, born in Knoxville, Illinois has never concealed his rural upbringing. The title track of his 1998 album Going Once, Going Twice (Palmetto) simulates a farm auction, likening the cadence of the auctioneer to scat singing. Wilson’s jazz, applied with his sly witticisms, is true to his personality. He first gained national attention with the Either/Orchestra and Dewey Redman’s band, but has since garnered critical acclaim with his three previous sessions as a leader. His jazz compositions invoke free range chickens, prairie landscapes, and baseball.
Arts And Crafts revamps Wilson’s quartet, replacing saxophones with trumpeter Terell Stafford (Bobby Watson’s Horizon) and reuniting Wilson with pianist Larry Goldings from the 1996 As Wave Follows Flow album. Bassist Dennis Irwin an Art Blakey and Mel Lewis Orchestra alumni, rounds out the quartet sound with solid timekeeping. The drummer Matt Wilson records seemingly non-drummer led albums, where he rarely solos and the composition itself is the feature. The tracks include three Wilson originals plus jazz covers that parallel his jazz theories. The quartet covers “Old Gospel,” an Ornette Coleman classic which has the revelatory sound of, well, folk music. Coleman, a Texas-born saxophonist deemed a modern genius of jazz, had to overcome the ‘weird’ music label. Maybe his proclaimed “shape of jazz to come” music was simply the non-urban music of his time. Wilson’s “Final Answer” (taken from Regis’ Millionaire) could easily pass for an Ornette original. Wilson’s jazz, like Ornette’s folk, has a logic based in jazz but framed in each individual personality. This concept of originality and finding one’s voice may be a bit foreign today. Wilson understands the essence of jazz is an original statement. The quartet also covers “Stompin’ Grounds,” from the boastfully inventive Rahsaan Roland Kirk. The title track showcases the Gospel-tinged trumpet of Stafford, who also burns a few Freddie Hubbard Blue Note lines elsewhere. The track “Lester,” done in memory of the recently passed trumpeter Lester Bowie, is all slurry, funky, and inflected with Bowie-blues. Goldings, heard here sans his signature organ, displays considerable technique in a minimalist way. There is quite a lot to explore here, and certainly music listeners in high-rise apartments located in urban centers may dig Matt Wilson’s jazz concepts too!