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Matt Wilson: Live at The Cafe Bohemia


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Matt Wilson: Live at The Cafe Bohemia
From its modest opening in 1955 until its closing in 1960, 15 Barrow Street in Greenwich Village, aka Cafe Bohemia, housed such progressive jazz creators as Oscar Pettiford, Horace Silver and Kenny Dorham. Charlie Parker, who lived across the street, was booked to open the club and play for drinks but passed away before his run began. Cannonball Adderley made his New York debut there sitting in for Pettiford's regular sax man Jerome Richardson. A slew of hydrogen hot discs, including Art Blakey's The Jazz Messengers at the Café Bohemia, Volume 1-2  (Blue Note,1956), Dorham's Round About Midnight at the Café Bohemia (Blue Note, 1957) and two from Charles Mingus,  Mingus at the Bohemia (Debut, 1955) and The Charles Mingus Quintet & Max Roach (Fantasy, 1955), were recorded on the premises. At the end of a gig in April 1957, Miles Davis fired John Coltrane reportedly for being too stoned to play. 

Recorded on Leap Day Eve and Leap Day 2020, four months after the club reopened after sixty years, and one month before it and everything else came to a screeching Covid halt in March 2020, Live at the Café Bohemia  catches the Leap Day Trio—drummer Matt Wilson, saxophonist Jeff Lederer and bassist Mimi Jones—pulling off a hot night of potent, off-kilter yet spot on free jazz. The buzz begins immediately as "Dewey Spirit" emerges from the stage darkness, a gonging, rattling anticipatory shadow led by Wilson, given voice by a wailing Lederer, who takes his turn with Albert Ayler on his shoulder. It is then allowed to dance free and frantic when Jones, her playing a purist's recipe of nimble swing and urban blues, breaks the tune open. Complete with whoops and hollers from the audience (where Joe Lovano was seated), "Dewey Spirit" may well be one of the best set openers in recent memory.

Though each player brought new music to the mix, Live at the Café Bohemia  teems with communal spirit and inspiration. From its hushed opening to Jones' too cool solo, "Leap of Faith" relishes in its 1940s soundtrack noir. As exercises in controlled yet open ended spontaneity, the slinky, surf riding "The Dream Weaver," and the empty, side street atmospherics of "Ghost Town" capture the imagination. Lederer's fevered caterwauling and Wilson's mad rhumba instigations make "Strive for Survival" a willful, urgent call. Adventurous interplay as highlighted by "Leap Leap," "Wind Spirit" and "Gospel Flowers" serve to solidify that Live at the Café Bohemia , captured vividly to tape (or hard drive) by acclaimed photog turned sound engineer Jimmy Katz and released by Katz and his wife Dena on their own Giant Step Arts label, deserves its place in the fabled lineage and history of 15 Barrow Street.

Track Listing

Dewey Spirit; Leap of Faith; The Dream Weaver; Ghost Town; Strival for Survival; Leap Leap; Wind Spirit; Gospel Flowers; For Friends.


Album information

Title: Live at The Cafe Bohemia | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Giant Step Arts

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