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Matt Wilson Quartet + John Medeski: Gathering Call

Carlo Wolff By

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Drummer Matt Wilson is certainly mercurial. Not only can he be found playing in all manner and format, working with everyone from Myra Melford to John Zorn to Elvis Costello, he regularly leads two quartets: Arts & Crafts, and this one, featuring roiling windman Jeff Lederer, cornetist Kirk Knuffke} and bassist Chris Lightcap. Augmented here by ubiquitous Boston-based pianist John Medeski, the MWQ turns in a diverse brace of tunes, held together by sequencing and two throat-clearers, the title track and the aptly titled "Dreamscape."

Recorded in one day, "Gathering Call" sounds spontaneous; the craft undoubtedly went into the planning—and the sequencing, which keeps the listener far more than interested. Wilson, of course, plays everything from blues shuffle (on Hugh Lawson's "Get Over, Get Off and Get On," perhaps the best tune Bobby Timmons never wrote) to template avant- garde (Wilson's own "How Ya Going" channels Ornette Coleman and his drummer, Billy Higgins) to nervy modern (Wilson's own, witty "Some Assembly Required").

The players are marvelous: Lederer burns, a phoenix flexing his wings, on "Assembly," hotly funkifying "Get Off" as Medeski mines the blues; Lightcap lends gravity to Wilson's thoughtful ballad, "Hope (for the Cause)"; Knuffke gives Beyonce's "If I Were a Boy" a poignant, gospel-like dignity; and Medeski fits into every tune. He's not out to make a point of his versatility here. He's out to play: with restraint, on the Beyonce; with curlicue zest, on Duke Ellington's "Main Stem"; pearly and pointed, on the complex and tricky "How Ya Going?"

You imagine these guys gathering at Palmetto owner Matt Balitsaris' Maggie's Farm studio in rural Pennsylvania, hashing out song titles and plunging in. Even though the repertoire here spans the Beyonce tune, Ellington and "Pumpkin's Delight," a great bop romp by Charlie Rouse, Thelonious Monk's last, and long-tenured, saxman, everything fits together. And no matter how jagged the music becomes, it remains accessible.

"Gathering Call," as its title suggests, represents a meeting of the minds. Intelligently sequenced, witty and rhythmic and catchy, it conjures a time when jazz was the popular music. The Wilson quartet's hookup with crossover artist Medeski is anything but contrived. It's a blend that makes for what is likely the best jazz album—at least of the first month— of 2014.

Track Listing: Main Stem; Some Assemble Required; Dancing Waters; Get Over, Get Off And Get On; Barack Obama; Gathering Call; You Dirty Dog; Hope (For The Cause); Dreamscape; How Ya Going?; If I Were A Boy; Pumpkin’s Delight; Juanita.

Personnel: Jeff Lederer: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet; Kirk Knuffke: cornet; Chris Lightcap: bass; Matt Wilson: drums; John Medeski: piano.

Title: Gathering Call | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Palmetto Records

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