WBGO Radar

Matt Wilson Quartet With John Medeski: Gathering Call

cover art for the Matt Wilson Quartet's CD Gathering Call

"I love first takes," says drummer Matt Wilson. "That's when you don't have any preconceptions of how things are supposed to go, and you just trust your instincts."

On Gathering Call, his new CD for Palmetto Records, Wilson's quartet captures this thrill of spontaneity for listeners. The disc was recorded over seven hours at Maggie's Farm in rural Pennsylvania, with pianist John Medeski as a special guest.

A key to Wilson's ability to surprise himself - and us - is his ability to choose musicians whose instincts he also trusts: he and his bandmates are more like an extended family.

Saxophonist Jeff Lederer and bassist Chris Lightcap are longtime collaborators, and WIlson discovered cornetist Kirk Knuffke when they played together in alto saxophonist Andrew D'Angelo's big band. At the time, D'Angelo also played with Wilson; when he left to spend more time on his own projects, Knuffke got the call, and fit right in.

"I just go with the way things feel, sonically and in the blend of time," says Wilson. "In this particular combination, the way the two horns play together is a little richer, and that came from very little effort."

Wilson's relationship with Medeski goes back twenty-seven years, to when both lived in Boston and played in the Either/Orchestra. While the pair have played together rarely since, WIlson has been eager for the opportunity to reunite, as he knew their affinity would bloom and include his bandmates, who hadn't played with Medeski before. 

"On this record, John was unbelievable," says Wilson. We didn't rehearse - he'd just hear something once and have a vibe on it. And the feeling was mutual with the guys - they were just blown away by how great everything felt."

Ten of the thirteen tracks on the disc are new material chosen for the session, which features covers of tunes from Duke Ellington's "Main Stem" to Beyoncé's "If I Were A Boy," and three originals. One of these, "Hope (For The Cause)," features a hearbreakingly beautiful clarinet solo by Lederer.

Throughout, Wilson's streamlines things to showcase the chemistry between the musicians, and to welcome listeners in to their excitement on the bandstand.

"You invite the listener to be part of the impression,"he says, "And you can't hide behind simplicity. I wanted music that is simple, but bountiful."

And above all else, for Wilson, is swing.

"Swing feels really good, and it's honest; I'm just trying for honesty, really," he says. "I'm most interested in the people, you know, the selflessness and courage of all the musicians I'm fortunate to be around. I am just so gratified that there's so much joy there."

Gathering Call's release date, Jan. 21, kicks off an eleven-date tour by the Matt Wilson Quartet with Medeski, and they will play more than thirty dates over the next three months; so you can taste this music, and its spontaneous magic, for yourselves. 

     - Tim Wilkins, WBGO digital content producer

The audio for this album is no longer available. Visit Amazon and iTunes to preview and purchase.

Checkout more WBGO Radar...