A hug is something which is a distant memory for most of us these days. The warm and friendly vibes of this new Matt Wilson album could be thought of as a virtual hug, full of smile-inducing swing and raffish humor.
Wilson's partners on this excursion are some of his usual cohorts, saxophonist Jeff Lederer, cornetist Kirk Knuffke and bassist Chris Lightcap. As usual on Wilson's albums, they go through a mix of original tunes and eclectic covers. The latter include a rowdy stomp through Gene Ammons' "The One Before This" and a frisky version of "Jabulani," one of Abdullah Ibrahim's joyful South African folk melodies. On that track, as on Charlie Haden's "In The Moment" and the original "Sunny And Share," Lederer and Knuffke careen through the melody like Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry in full cry while Lightcap fast steps with his bass and Wilson bashes his drums.
Elsewhere, Wilson's composition "Every Day With You" is a sweet, slow ballad played with aching prettiness, and Dewey Redman's "Joie De Vivre" is a breezy strut with bubbly horn solos and a merrily skipping beat from the rhythm section. Lederer shows off his clarinet chops on a casual stroll through Roger Miller's "King Of The Road," and the title track is a particular delight, a cheerful melody where the horns bounce along like the Tijuana Brass and swelling strings enhance the band's serenading. This one is so catchy that with lyrics added, it could be a pop hit. The most ingenious bit of fun on the disc comes when Donald Trump's speech about creating a Space Force is enveloped in doomy bellows and squiggles that turn into a shrill, sarcastic march tune which then morphs into a much friendlier and hipper song about space, Sun Ra's "Interplanetary Music," sung lustily by the entire band.
Hug! is big-hearted, swinging and fun. All the members of the band play immaculately, picking up Wilson's infectious sense of glee as they work. This music exudes humor, joy and a passion for life, all things we could use more of these days.
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.
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