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Matt Wilson’s Big Happy Family: Beginning of a Memory

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The jazz funeral is a time-honored tradition, but it’s seldom been more exultant or moving than on Matt Wilson’s Beginning of a Memory. The drummer’s first album as leader since the death of his wife, Felicia, in 2014, this recording unites Wilson’s Arts & Crafts and Christmas Tree-O ensembles, as well as his eponymous quartet. The sounds they create together are boisterous, fervent and frequently overwhelming.

Each musician brings massive chops and full emotional engagement. Cornet player Kirk Knuffke and trumpeter Terell Stafford growl through the loping drag of “Lester,” and their furious commitment is matched by Jeff Lederer and Joel Frahm’s brawling soprano saxophones on “Searchlight.” Wilson’s ticking beat backs acoustic bassists Martin Wind and Paul Sikivie, with Chris Lightcap playing electric, on the moody “Feel the Sway,” and alto saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo’s sharp-toned intro kicks the aptly named “Andrew’s Ditty” into high gear. Pianist Larry Goldings offers the nostalgia-kissed solo “How Ya Goin’?,” and “Go Team Go! (Endless Love)” features bassist Yosuke Inoue’s disarmingly effective take on the titular pop-schmaltz ballad.

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