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Matt Wilson Quartet + John Medeski: Gathering Call

Dan Bilawsky By

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Drummer Matt Wilson may define the ideal of unabashed enthusiasm better than anyone else in jazz. His cymbals and drums even seem to be smiling when he sets sticks to them, so it should come as no shock that musical zeal is a key factor in the success of Gathering Call. For his eleventh album as a leader, this musical ray of positive energy called on his quartet and added an important guest to the mix; he reunited with his old friend and former band mate in the late '80s edition of Russ Gershon's Either/Orchestra—pianist John Medeski. The resultant music is predictably strong.

Gathering Call turns out to be a gathering of gifted extroverts who are capable of getting heads bobbing, rumps shaking and minds thinking all at once. Raucous rides ("Some Assembly Required"), Charles Lloyd-esque mysticism ("Dancing Waters"), jubilant swing (Duke Ellington's "Main Stem") and some of the most soulful odd-metered music set to record (Get Over, Get Off And Get On") are all part of the package; and that only covers the first third of the program.

As the album continues to unfold, Wilson and company paint broad vistas ("Barack Obama"), set out on brief-and-audacious explorations ("Gathering Call") and take a stab at another swinging ducal delight ("You Dirty Dog"). Those who think that spang-a-lang cymbal work is passé may have their minds changed by Wilson's drumming on the Ellington material.

The drummer/leader never dissapoints here, and neither do his colleagues. Better-suited band mates for Wilson may not exist in this world. Saxophonist Jeff Lederer's in-the-zone blustery-and-focused playing is a gas, but he also shows a tender side, most notably when he picks up his clarinet in quieter confines. Trumpeter Kirk Knuffke, the newest member of the quartet, balances the zany and controlled just as well as the rest; one minute he might be pushing boundaries and the next he might be touching souls, leading the way on a surprisingly endearing take on Beyoncé's "If I Were A Boy." Bassist Chris Lightcap remains a grounding presence throughout, though he's willing to enter the fray, and Medeski, whether soloing, working in turbulent settings ("How Ya Going?"), delivering trickle-down tides ("Barack Obama") or finding beauty and peace ("Juanita"), is his ever-engaging self. Wilson already has a lot of fine albums in his discography, but this may be the best one yet.

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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