Economy of invention

How often do we hear about a jazz album where the drummer is also the bandleader? Well, Max Roach and Art Blakey come to mind, but then things drop off fairly quickly. I know, how about Matt Wilson?

Who’s Matt Wilson? The leader (and drummer) of the Matt Wilson Quartet, that’s who. A humble little ensemble with equally unknown players including bassist Yosuke Inoue and saxophonists Joel Frahm and Andrew D’Angelo, the Matt Wilson Quartet plays high-quality jazz with very little fanfare. Performing relatively short (five-and-a-half minutes, tops) compositions that showcase the group’s interactive nature as well as their individual talents, the MWQ is a model of economy and taste. Of course, Matt Wilson is something of a virtuoso on the drums and one can’t help but notice his startling rhythmic inventiveness on every tune.

While most of the tunes here are written by the band members, the quartet also performs Coltrane’s "Grand Central," Monk’s "Boo Boo’s Birthday" and a wonderful version of "Strangers in the Night." It should also be noted that D’Angelo and Frahm are a tag team made in saxophone heaven. With Frahm’s probing tenor in direct counterpoint to D’Angelo’s razor-sharp alto, the band is graced with both harmonic complexity and extremely able soloists. While modern jazz continues to grow in popularity, small groups like the Matt Wilson Quartet are still too easily overlooked. Let’s just call Smile jazz record of the month and give it a couple of good listens. Fair enough?

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