Matt Wilson is the proverbial musical chameleon. He appears in many guises, albeit always as a drummer, in an array of musical settings and if you were to put it all together in a sort of retrospective Wilson’s many percussion personas would be quite staggering. But this record is personal in a very passionate sort of way. It is his way of remembering his extraordinarily talented late wife, the violinist Felicia Lynn Wilson. The record is an emotionally-charged, but not a ‘sad’ one. If anything it is a celebration; an unmitigated delight, with music treated with just the right amount of seriousness and charm, weighty at times but always elevating.
All but three of the pieces are Matt Wilson’s. They are all wonderful pieces in which Wilson’s fire and invention never flags for an instant. Nothing about this music is conventional. Many – like ‘Request Potato’ and ’25 Years of Rootabagas’ fly in the face of reason yet succeed magnificently and the setting of his ode (so to speak) to his wife, ‘Flowers for Felicia’ and even ‘Beginning of a Memory’ stand convention on its head. Incandescent, profoundly human and intoxicating in the celebration of the world of nature and of life, end even of the divine. The music is beautifully shaped both by ensemble, by soloists and by Matt Wilson’s conducting and his operatic sense of timing. It succeeds on so many levels, mostly excelling in rich orchestral tapestries.
Songs like ‘Searchlight’ sparkle brilliantly. ‘Feel the Sway’ is infectiously joyous. ‘Go Team Go! – Endless Love’ is rhythmically crisp and unfailingly responsive, most effectively in its closing movements. Even in the relatively sombre ‘July Hymn’ the music is a joyous celebration of life. In life one overcomes grief by surrounding oneself with the love of those closest to one. Matt Wilson translates this into his music by surrounding himself with musicians whom he loves and who are able to translate and transpose their feelings for him by playing with deeply-felt emotion. Their play is superbly flexible in internalising the drama of the works. I have rarely heard more compelling and transcendent ‘heart-music’ than Beginning of a Memory.
What better way to say farewell to a loved one and at the same time beckoning her spirit back to remain with you a little longer than with music that is played with exemplary articulation; music that is radiant, dramatically compelling and infused with wit and unexpurgated joy.
Track List: Score; Lester; Searchlight; Beginning of a Memory; Request Potato; How Ya Goin’? Father of the Year; Getting Friendly; Andrew’s Ditty; Flowers for Felicia (Orchids-Wildwood Flower); No Outerwear; Potato Radio; Go Team Go! – Endless Love; @5 Years of Rootabagas; Feel the Sway; Schoolboy Thug; July Hymn.
Personnel: Terrell Stafford: trumpet (1 – 5, 7, 9 – 14, 16, 17); Kirk Knuffke: cornet (1 – 5, 7 – 9, 12, 13, 16, 17); Jeff Lederer: tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet (1 – 5, 7 – 10, 12 – 14, 16, 17); Joel Frahm: tenor and soprano saxophones (1 – 5, 7, 9 – 13, 16, 17); Andrew D’Angelo: alto saxophone, bass clarinet (1 – 5, 7 – 9, 12 – 14, 16, 17); Gary Versace: piano, organ, accordion (1 – 5, 10, 11, 13, 14); Larry Goldings: piano (6); Martin Wind: acoustic bass (1 – 5, 7, 9 – 16); Paul Sikivie: acoustic bass (1 – 5, 7- 10, 12, 13, 16); Yosuke Inoue: acoustic bass (13); Chris Lightcap: acoustic and electric basses (2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16); Matt Balitsaris: acoustic guitar and dobro (10); Matt Wilson: drums (1 – 5, 7 – 16).
Label: Palmetto Records
Release date: May 2016
Running time: 1:03:01