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STLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Spotlight on Matt Wilson


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Today, let's spend some time with drummer and bandleader Matt Wilson, who will be in St. Louis with his quartet and special guest pianist John Medeski to perform next Wednesday, January 22 through Saturday, January 25 at Jazz at the Bistro.

Wilson, who grew up in Knoxville, IL, has played in St. Louis a number of times in recent years, including last year at the Bistro with clarinetist Anat Cohen to kick off the 2013 Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival. Before that, he played at the Bistro with his band Arts and Crafts in 2012, and - in part because his brother Mark teaches at St. Louis University - he's performed at various other local venues, too, including SLU, the now-shuttered Black Cat Theatre in Maplewood, and Hixson Middle School in Webster Groves.

In addition to the quartet, the versatile Wilson leads the band Arts and Crafts as well as the seasonal project Christmas Tree-O. He's released 16 albums as a leader or co-leader, and has appeared on more than 250 CDs as a sideman. In addition to directing his own groups, Wilson has worked regularly as part of bands led by Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Charlie Haden, Lee Konitz, Bob Stewart, Denny Zeitlin, Ron Miles, Marty Ehrlich, Ted Nash, Jane Ira Bloom and Dena DeRose among others.

This time around in St. Louis, Wilson and his quartet - bassist Chris Lightcap, trumpeter Kirk Knuffke, and the man Wilson calls his “alter ego," saxophonist Jeff Lederer - will be celebrating the release of a new CD, Gathering Call, recorded with Medeski on piano. The album officially drops this Tuesday, January 21, and the quartet and Medeski will be doing a total of ten dates together to promote it over the next couple of weeks.

The relationship between Medeski and Wilson dates back to the 1980s, when the two played together in Boston's Either/Orchestra, but this marks the first time they've recorded together since then. You can read reviews of the albumhere,  here and here, and listen to the brief (1:47) title track here. Unfortunately, since the lineup of Wilson's quartet plus Medeski is specific to Gathering Call, there's no video of them all playing together to show you. So instead, today we've got several clips featuring Wilson in different contexts, both musical and philosophical.

The first video up above, recorded in 2011, features the quartet (plus a small string ensemble from Kent University) performing “If I Were A Boy, “ which a pop hit for singer Beyonce. It's a fairly straightforward rendering that demonstrates nicely the drummer/leader's capacity to look for material beyond the standard jazz repertory.

Down below, you can see Arts & Crafts playing Wilson's composition “Bubbles," first recorded on the album An Attitude for Gratitude, in a performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha in Qatar. Along with Wilson on drums, that's Gary Versace on piano and Martin Wind on bass, with Ron Miles in place of the group's regular trumpeter Terell Stafford.

Below that, you can see Wilson in a couple of improvised drum duets recorded last year. In the third clip, recorded at a jazz festival in Port Townsend, WA, he and Jeff Hamilton trade licks on “A Night In Tunisia." The fourth clip features Wilson and Steve Williams playing together in a show at SUNY New Paltz, NY behind a band that also includes John Menegon (bass), St. Louis' own Greg Osby (alto sax), Tineke Postma (alto sax, soprano sax), and Frank Kimbrough (piano).

You can get a more in-depth look at Wilson's concepts and style in the fifth video, an hour-long master class recorded last year at the jazz camp associated with the Litchfield Jazz Festival in Connecticut. The sixth and final clip is from Wilson's talk at the 2013 JEN Conference, in which he talks about how jazz musicians can further develop their audiences through presentation, involvement, and entertainment (PIE).

For more about Matt Wilson, check out this extended interview published in 2012 on, and this one from Omaha public radio station KIOS; this audio feature, also from 2012, from NPR's “Weekend Edition"; and Nate Chinen's cover story about Wilson from the November 2009 issue of Jazz Times.

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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