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Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts: An Attitude for Gratitude

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In 1999, Matt Wilson released an album called Smile. But every album the drummer puts out makes you smile. Wilson is by no means a clown-he’s a serious musician, composer and bandleader-but enjoyment is job number one with him. The fourth album by his quartet Arts & Crafts extends this philosophy. Indeed, the only connective tissue among these 11 songs is that the band-with Martin Wind on bass, Terell Stafford on trumpet and flugelhorn and Gary Versace on piano, organ and accordion-enjoys playing them.

The fun is there from note one. The jaunty rhythm and happy-go-lucky melody of Versace’s “Poster Boy” recall the sort of tune the Jazz Messengers or Jazztet would serve up, as Versace’s spiraling phrases do loop-de-loops over a hard-bop backdrop. Organ and trumpet take turns stating the theme of Nat Adderley’s “Little Boy With the Sad Eyes” before overlapping solos ensue: Stafford blowing big, brassy, trill-accented blasts; Versace digging bluesy crevices between the walking bass and the churning hard-bop swing. These two guys turn in fantastic solos again on a cover of Weather Report’s “Teen Town,” which begins with the theme stated tightly in unison by bass, organ and horn.

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