Matt Wilson: Going Once, Going Twice

Matt Wilson
Going Once, Going Twice

BECAUSE THERE ARE so many mediocre instrumentalists out there blowing "new music" (whatever that is) out of their "avant-garde" asses, it's hard not to be suspicious of an up-and-comer who's already been tied to an "anti-traditionalist" shtick. But 33-year-old drummer Matt Wilson--not to be confused with the Minneapolis-based Shakespeare-ian vocalist--is one of those rare cats who has the chops to patent a brand of lighthearted irreverence without sounding like a pretender. On Going Once, Going Twice he combines the cadences of early-century swing with a kind of funked-up, free-formed R&B (think Odean Pope's free funk instead of Ornette Coleman's freeforms), then spoofs it all with a post-grunge swagger. More Knitting Factory than Village Vanguard, the 11-track CD, anchored by eight originals, will not only piss off jazz traditionalists, but scare them a little as well.

To warm up the set, the core quartet does a Lounge Lizards imitation, snake-charming Wilson's "Searchlight" before breaking into an impressive bit of improvisational chaos. On a number of tracks, bottom-dwelling bassist Yosuke Inoue bounces along while nimble reed men Andrew D'Angelo (alto sax, bass clarinet) and Joel Frahm (tenor and soprano sax) take winding, whimsical runs and short, clipped sprints. On his "Request Potato," Wilson turns from spry trap player to ostentatious percussionist, helping his band groove in an infectious call and response. Elsewhere, guest alto vet and one-time no-waver Lee Konitz legitimizes things by getting the band to blow outside its lines on "Brattleboro" and "Land of Lincoln." The version of Pete Seeger's "Turn, Turn, Turn," which rounds out the CD, is studiously rendered to mesmerizing affect, albeit with a bit of a wink and a smile.

Live and in the studio, Wilson--who was named Best New Artist in 1997 by the New York Jazz Critics Circle--plays up a self-consciously quirky aesthetic that informs tunes such as "Turn, Turn, Turn" and the title song, which features Pete McCann's twangy banjo and Konitz hollering like an absurdist auctioneer. And since Wilson is a white Illinois farm boy turned NYC hipster, the critics are eating his act up, and treating him as if he were the Bible Belt's wry answer to West Coast lite and East Coast erudition. In fact, Wilson and his mates are just city slickers in disguise, sporting a hybrid style that's not only hip in a trendy-restaurant sort of way, but also inventive to boot.

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