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Matt Wilson’s Big Happy Family: Beginning of A Memory

Mark Corroto By

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It's easy to imagine the phone calls, drummer Matt Wilson made, using his best imitation of Elwood from the 1980 Blues Brothers movie, "We're putting the band back together, we're on a mission from God." And like that, current members and alumni of the drummer's bands: the Matt Wilson Quartet, Arts & Crafts, and Christmas Tree-O assembled to commune and revisit the music Wilson's late wife Felicia loved.

This recording was Wilson's first since he lost his wife to leukemia in 2014. It certainly was fitting to perform the compositions she loved, and by the performers Felicia considered her extended family. Instead of a wake, the music is a celebration. One crafted in the true Wilson fashion, without written arrangements or rehearsals.

The relaxed groove pervades the session. In "Feel The Sway," you really feel the oscillations of his two-bassists' Yosuke Inoue and Chris Lightcap trio piece and Terell Stafford's growling "Lester" tribute to Lester Bowie with cornet star Kirk Knuffke. Felicia certainly had great taste, as this session acts also like a Matt Wilson greatest hits record. He presents an intimate picture with pieces like "Flowers For Felicia" and the title track. But also there's the wackiness of "Go Team Go!/Endless Love," with a rah-rah cheering section that morphs into Lionel Ritchie's saccharine pop tune and "Schoolboy Thug," a piece Wilson has been known to don a mullet wig for his drum solo, while saxophonist Andrew D'Angelo writhes on the ground.

The music is crazy fun, but also gratifyingly sentimental. Larry Goldings solo prepared piano rendition of "How Ya Doin'" tugs at the tear ducts, as does "Getting Friendly," with Knuffke, D'Angelo, and Jeff Lederer proffering whispered notes over Wilson's time keeping pulse. The disc ends with his most beautiful piece, "July Hymn," written originally as a homage to Don Cherry, but from now on it should be expanded to include Felicia Lynn Wilson.

Track Listing: Score; Lester; Searchlight; Beginning of a Memory; Request Potato; How Ya Goin’?; Father of the Year; Getting Friendly; Andrew’s Ditty; Flowers for Felicia (Orchids-Wildwood Flower); No Outerwear; Potato Radio; Go Team Go!/Endless Love; 25 Years of Rootabagas; Feel the Sway; Schoolboy Thug; July Hymn.

Personnel: Terell Stafford: trumpet; Kirk Knuffke: cornet; Jeff Lederer: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet; Joel Frahm: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Andrew D’Angelo: alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Gary Versace: piano, organ, accordion; Larry Goldings; piano; Martin Wind: acoustic bass; Paul Sikivie: acoustic bass; Yosuke Inoue: acoustic bass; Chris Lightcap: acoustic bass, electric bass; Matt Balitsaris: acoustic guitar, dobro; Matt Wilson: drums.

Title: Beginning of A Memory | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Palmetto Records


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