Matt Wilson Quartet: Hug!

Dan McClenaghan By

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Matt Wilson Quartet: Hug!
Drummer Matt Wilson's quartet opens Hug! with Gene Ammons' "The One Before This." Saxophonist Ammons often used the tune as a showcase for tenor battles with fellow sax man Sonny Stitt. Wilson and company—featuring cornetist Kirk Knuffke, sax man Jeff Lederer and bassist Chris Lightcap—lay the sound down like a party. And this quartet parties hard. It feels like a rough-and-tumble affair, going down around midnight, when the alcohol has settled in, and the half hammered dancers are stumbling around a furniture-cleared living room, colliding with each other and the walls.

Pianist Abdullah Ibrahim's "Jubulani" also exudes a good time mood, full speed ahead, and Charlie Haden's "In The Moment" also employs an irresistible momentum, with cornetist Knuffke blowing agitated, Don Cherry-esque notes, leading into saxophonist Lederer's torrid tenor solo.

"Everyday With You," a Wilson original, shifts the breakneck pace with a love song, anguished passion in every note Knuffke and Lederer lay down, followed by the enchantingly ridiculous "Space Force March/Interplanetary Music," a celebration of a perhaps specious aspiration of a certain lamentably-elected President, including speech samples from the man who sounds pretty dumb here, if he didn't in his original unveiling of the plan. This married to Sun Ra's take on music from outer space. Good stuff! Maybe this someday soon (?) Space Force can find a home for the certain president, on Jupiter or Mars, or Uranus.

"Joie De Vivre," from the pen of avant saxophonist Dewey Redman, lives up to its title, with Lederer channeling his inner Redman in a fittingly gruff and grumbling fashion. The title tune—from Wilson's pen—is the prettiest piece on the album, with strings deftly attached by Matt Combs. Another joyful romp.

A surprise, and the coolest song on the set, is a straightforward rendition of Roger Miller's 1965 hit, "King Of The Road," a song which battled the Beatles for its spot on the charts back in the day. It opens with Lightcap's cushiony bass bounce, soon joined by Lederer on a sweet-sounding clarinet. It is a nod back to a time—pre top-forty homogenization—when a wide variety of song styles could catch popular music lovers' fancies.

The album closes with "Hambe Kahle (Goodbye)" inspired by Wilson's trip to South Africa. It is a hopeful, optimistic township sound, a perfect goodbye.

Track Listing

The One Before This; Jabulani; In The Moment; Every Day with You; Space Force March/Interplanetary Music; Joie De Vivre; Sunny and Share; Hug! King Of The Road; Man Bun; Hambe Kahle.


Matt Wilson: drums; Jeff Lederer: saxophone; Chris Lightcap: bass; Kirk Knuffke: cornet.

Additional Instrumentation

Jeff Lederer: clarinet, piccolo, voice; Kirk Knuffke: voice; Chris Lightcap: voice; Matt Wilson: xylophone, voice.

Album information

Title: Hug! | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Palmetto Records

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