Matt Wilson Quartet

Hug
Palmetto Records PM 2196

A pleasant curio from drummer Matt Wilson’s long-established quartet, Hug’s 11 tracks caress a distinct roll call of originals, Jazz-and-other musical standard with cultivated élan, and sardonic humor appropriate for the age of Donald Trump and Covid. That means that “King of the Road” and a burlesque of Trump’s outer spaces dreams share space with classics from Charlie Haden, Gene Ammons and others. Practiced players all, the quartet includes cornetist Kirk Knuffke, who works with Mark Helias; bassist Chris Lightcap, whose associations include Gerald Cleaver; and multi-reedist Jeff Lederer, who is part of numerous bands, many of which feature other quartet members.

Of the covers, the standout is easily “Space Force March/Interplanetary Music”. It uses plunger brass, xylophone pops and pennywhistle like slides to mock in march time samples of the US president’s grandiloquent blither about a space force. Crunching electric bass rhythms underline the four vocalizing the Sun Ra tune, contrasting profound and pugnacious views of the solar system. Renditions of others’ compositions are notable too. Ammons’ “The One before This” contains the proper mixture of jump band jaunt and South side funk, propelled by Wilson’s hi-hat clips, Knuffke’s capillary slithers and Lederer’s pseudo-R&B honks; while Haden’s “In the Moment” swirls with Bop sophistication was flighty sax slurs and percussion accents bring the equivalent of the Bird-Max Roach partnership into the 21st Century.

Wilson’s compositions attain the same elevated standard. The concluding “Hambe Kahle (Goodbye)”, for instance, conveys bittersweet leave-taking via a gutsy, double toned clarinet solo; while “Every Day with You” has where tenderness expressed by the cornet’s muted harmonies. Thematically the title tune too is leisurely, but yakety-sax reed bites harmonized with space-bass stokes in the violin range give it more pep, confirming the skill needed to produce this effortless simplicity.

Not a major statement, but a comprehensive affirmation of Wilson’s talents as a drummer, bandleader, arranger and composer, the CD should be a keepsake for many.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1.The One before This 2. Jabulani 3. In The Moment 4. Every Day with You 5. Space Force March/Interplanetary Music 6. Joie De Vivre 7. Sunny and Share 8. Hug! 9. King of the Road 10. Man Bun 11. Hambe Kahle (Goodbye)

Personnel: Kirk Knuffke (cornet, soprano cornet, voice); Jeff Lederer (soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet, piccolo, voice); Chris Lightcap (bass, electric bass, 8-string space bass, voice) and Matt Wilson (drums, xylophone, voice)