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Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts at the Village Vanguard

Stern, emotive, odd and funny, sometimes in the same tune

Matt Wilson

There’s a striking completeness about the drummer Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts. The quartet works in equilibrium between most of jazz’s tenets, yet never seems to be casting its net too wide. The band harbors virtuosic talent but communicates easily and assuredly, with plenty of hummable melody and foot-tapping rhythm to grab onto. It often flaunts a postmodern quirkiness indicative of small-group jazz in the 2010s, but its sets can also be taken as jazz-history lessons. It can be stern, emotive, odd and funny, sometimes in the same tune. This sort of particular versatility marks Wilson, whose performances always reveal a couple things straight off the bat: He’s highly likable as a personality, and his study of jazz-drumming lineage is both specific and comprehensive.

You can imagine Arts & Crafts going over well in any venue, for any audience. On Wednesday night, the band, featuring trumpeter/flugelhornist Terell Stafford, keyboardist/accordionist Gary Versace and bassist Martin Wind, came across as tailor-made for the Village Vanguard. (This was Wilson’s first leader run at the Vanguard, and this 9 p.m. set was recorded for broadcast on WBGO and NPR Music.)

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