When the Matt Wilson Quartet (MWQ) first formed in 1996, their goal was to establish a cohesive working unit that would eventually carve out a distinct musical identity. As many would readily attest, the MWQ have done just that - releasing a critically acclaimed CD (1999's Smile
), and establishing themselves as one of jazz music's most energetic live acts.
Now, after a three-year recording sabbatical, the group reemerges with Humidity
- a heat-soaked, brow-beaten affair that further supports their commitment to developing an inventive, singular sound. Of the album's twelve cuts, nine were penned by drummer Wilson - whose peculiar compositional voice continues to give the group its uniqueness and vitality. Of those nine, highlights include the youthful and eclectic "Swimming in the Trees," the cross-cultured sonic brew "Raga," and the hauntingly expressive "Wall Shadows," which features exceptional work by bassist Yosuke Inoue. "Free Willy," composed by reedman Andrew D'Angelo, is a prime example of the band's infectious drive; it also boasts a strong solo by tenor saxophonist Jeff Lederer.
Although the set volleys from style to style, linearity to non, control to chaos, the group is able, for the most part, to avoid major tangents. In fact, one of real strengths of the CD is the MWQ's ability to forge a collective sound while still allowing each member his own wayward freedoms. The best example of this comes on the title track, during which each musician (including guest artists Felicia Wilson, John Carlson and Curtis Hasselbring) whimsically steps in and out of the melody, or plays against it completely. The result is an uproariously chaotic, yet admittedly appealing, cacophony of moods and sounds.
All things considered, Humidity
may well be the quartet's strongest outing to date. A recommended recording for all listeners seeking to moisten and expand their respective jazz palates.
Note: this review originally appeared in All About Jazz: New York .