Matt Wilson Quartet | Green Mill | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Matt Wilson Quartet 

When: Fri., Feb. 7, 9 p.m. and Sat., Feb. 8, 8 p.m. 2014
Price: $15
New York drummer Matt Wilson plays in a lot of bands, but none captures his goofy charisma and infectious ebullience like his long-running quartet, which thrives within the borders of jazz orthodoxy even as it blows them a raspberry. Wilson is a fervent believer in the joyful power of jazz in all its permutations, and he drives the tunes with brisk playing and boundless energy—but at the same time, he doesn’t hesitate to trip them up (a la the pranksters in Amsterdam’s Instant Composers Pool) to keep things lively. A couple weeks ago Wilson and his quartet released Gathering Call (Palmetto), the band’s first album in five years; its latest lineup includes one new member, trumpeter Kirk Knuffke, alongside bassist Chris Lightcap, saxophonist Jeff Lederer, and guest pianist John Medeski, who adds zip and depth to the sublimely swinging music. A high-energy reading of the Duke Ellington classic “Main Stem” sets the tone, as Medeski stokes the horn players’ traded lines and breathless multilinear improvisation with fleet asides, stabbing notes, and concise solos. The group brings a soul-jazz snap to Hugh Lawson’s funky “Get Over, Get Off, and Get On,” strips down classic swing for “You Dirty Dog” (another Ellington tune), and carries on a chattery, three-way conversation between cornet, piano, and sax on the driving, Ornette-ish “How Ya Going.” For the most part the quartet keeps its collective foot pressed down hard on the gas pedal—the few exceptions include a tender, floaty Wilson tone poem called “Dancing Waters” and the translucent, soul-streaked ballad “Barack Obama” by veteran bassist Butch Warren. Only a cover of the Beyonce hit “If I Were a Boy” strikes an odd note; it doesn’t sound corny or arch, as jazz versions of pop songs so often do, but its bombast feels out of place. The same lineup from the album, sans Medeski, will perform at this two-night stand. —Peter Margasak



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