It's early summer, the sky is clear and warm, and you're half-reclined behind the wheel of a white, American-made convertible, cruising smoothly down the highway. Suddenly you notice that you've drifted off onto the wrong exit ramp. In order to right your blunder, you have to navigate a service road littered with zany, brightly colored bric-a-brac. You finally make it back to the main stretch, but you're doomed to repeat your folly nine more times before the end of your trip.
Were this to actually happen to you, you might have a sense of what it's like to take a journey across the ten tracks on this delightfully seriocomic release from Matt Wilson's Arts and Crafts group. The ten cuts on The Scenic Route are straight-ahead stretches of jazz that whimsically yo-yo the listener onto a service road of quirky sounds and rhythms. These forays are playful and experimental, yet tangible and agreeable. They're much as one would imagine a musical session of arts and crafts to be among a crew of adept musicians.
The inter-musician listening on The Scenic Route is what makes the album sophisticated, in addition to playfulall experiments are treated as serious musical ideas and are encouraged to follow the course to their conclusion. On top of this is Wilson's knack for composition. The bandleader takes advantage of the rare qualities (for a percussionist, anyway) of melodic cleverness and sensitivity. This isn't only communicated in the album's catchy heads"The Scenic Route," "Feel the Sway," "25 Years of Rootabagas"but also in Wilson's improvisations, which mold the drum set into the band's fourth melodic instrument.
In the end, the band is tight and the soloists are hot. Wilson's car is alone on the roadnot in desertion, but because he seems to be the only one with the acumen to find the way. For anyone wanting a ride, he's picking up passengers as he goes. All you have to do to catch a lift is put on The Scenic Route and feel the sway.
The Scenic Route; We See; 25 Years of Rootabagas; Feel the Sway; Rejoicing; The Bat; In Touch with Dewey; Little B's Poem; Tenderly; Our Prayer/Give Peace a Chance.
Matt Wilson: drums, percussion, vocals; Terell Stafford: trumpet, flugelhorn; Gary Versace: piano, organ, accordion; Dennis Irwin: double bass, clarinet; Karlie Bruce, Ayana Del Valle, Elizabeth Dotson-Westphalen: vocals.