Matt Wilson, one of the most inventive and individualistic drummers in modern music, has never restricted himself to one style–and no genre could easily contain his rangy technique or hyperactive imagination. He most often appears at the helm of his own two-sax pianoless quartet, which displays a familiarity with postfreedom jazz, a healthy appetite for grooves, and an advanced case of dadaism. But last weekend in Toronto, Wilson played in two wildly different bands at the conference of the International Association for Jazz Education: Denny Zeitlin’s expansive piano trio and Jane Ira Bloom’s new Japanese-tinged quartet, in which–with two sticks in each hand and movements reminiscent of taiko drumming–he wrangled something like Kabuki music from a standard trap set. Wilson obviously has a huge array of resources, and this makes even his mainstream work (like that of Jack DeJohnette, Joey Baron, and the few other drummers who can move so easily among idioms) riveting and unpredictable. When he takes on a relatively straightforward project, such as his Arts and Crafts quartet with charismatic keyboardist Larry Goldings, half the fun comes from hearing him channel his anarchic impulses within a relatively controlled context. The other half, of course, comes from hearing the mainstream jazz tradition handled with such aplomb. Trumpeter Terrell Stafford, who moved to jazz from classical studies and still performs classical works in concert, fronts the band with alacrity; bassist Dennis Irwin, a veteran of groups led by John Scofield, provides a dry but fluid foundation; and Goldings, a highly sought-after pianist-organist, has a wry sense of humor and brings a resume as varied as Wilson’s own. Saturday, January 18, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.