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Monday, October 04, 2004

To the Matt Wilson Quartet over the weekend, the season opener for the Microsoft Art of Jazz Series at the Albright-Knox and another illustration of a terrific drummer-led combo. Wilson's band features two reed players, Andrew D'Angelo and Jeff Lederer, and Yousuke Inoue on bass, and had a sound that reminded me of Ornette Coleman. (Wilson started out playing with long-time Coleman collaborator Dewey Redman.) The reed players were principally on alto and tenor, but D'Angelo occasionally switched to bass clarinet, and Lederer was also featured on soprano sax and clarinet.

There was tremendous exuberance in the playing, which swung a lot more than you might expect that sort of "free jazz" might, and the humor and obvious enjoyment the musicians derived from playing with each other was infectious. Bruce Eaton, the promoter, had set up a kid's show for the following day-- I was so excited by the show that I call a friend at intermission to encourage him to bring his daughter. I returned with LCA and CLA on Sunday, and when is the last time you saw a jazz act that was so exciting that you went back to see them again less than 24 hours later?

Wilson is a chatty guy, and talked a great deal in between numbers; at Sunday's performance, which was a good deal more relaxed, he became a lecturer, and had a good deal to say about the history of the music, and its American quality. Jazz is both influential, and accepting of outside influences, for example, two traits that among the best of what constitutes the American character. Jazz values virtuosity and improvisation-- again, aspects of American society that we value and honor.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing that Wilson is doing is a project involving the creation of music inspired by the poetry of Carl Sandburg, like Wilson, a product of the Midwest, and, like Wilson, an artist interested in expressing what it is that the idea of "America" embodies. Wilson mentioned at one point that his band was "democratic" when it played together, for example, respecting the ideas and contributions of each.

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