11 August 2009

Review: That's Gonna Leave a Mark

Matt Wilson Quartet
Jazz and historical scholarship share a similar pathological obsession with the new. Historians are rewarded more for writing something new than writing something well. I read more than a few books in grad school in which noted scholars and sharp minds stretched an idea far past the point of usefulness in order to make a book-length argument that had never been made before (not naming names...). Meanwhile, there seems to be a scarcity of syntheses which may not be earth-shattering but nonetheless incorporate miscellaneous ideas from other works into a coherent, convincing final product.

Such is the case in jazz. Consider this critique of Wynton Marsalis from Destination: Out!
There was something intractably stodgy about much of this neo-traditional work, lacking both the spark found in the original forms and the thrilling innovations of the so-called avant garde. To our ears, it was minor music with a major publicist.
I'm not begrudging the argument, because I kind of feel the same way. Whenever I listen to Black Codes (From the Underground), I usually end up switching to Miles Smiles before I finish the album. But is my haste to go directly to the source, as it were, indicative of a bias towards music that was "newer" at the moment of creation?

This is where Matt Wilson comes in. His latest album, That's Gonna Leave a Mark, might not be striving to break new ground, but it presents a coherent take on postbop, drawing from the influence of Ornette Coleman's first quartet. Wilson's drumming has been compared to that of Billy Higgins, which I find to be an apt comparison. The tunes on this album are loose and a bit freewheeling, but he anchors the group in a subtle way reminiscent of Higgins' work with Coleman.

Altoist Andrew D'Angelo provides two originals on the album, Shooshabuster and Rear Control, which are among the most intriguing moments of the disc. D'Angelo's compositions are quirky and energetic, with the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that I love when applied to jazz composition. Listen to Rear Control (below); the fusion of the melody and bass line in the A section is a perfect marriage of melody, harmony, and rhythm (you may even call it harmolodic if you knew what you were talking about).

This album likely will not make any top ten lists at the end of the year, and there's a good chance that it will recede into the dark recesses of my music library after awhile, but it is nonetheless a fun listen that shouldn't be put down because it doesn't say anything new.

Bonus Material:

Track Listing: Shooshabuster; Arts & Crafts; Rear Control; Getting Friendly; Two Bass Hit; Area Man; Lucky; That's Gonna Leave a Mark; Celibate Oriole; Come and Find The Quiet Center; Why Can't We Be Friends
Personnel: Andrew D'Angelo, alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Jeff Lederer, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet; Chris Lightcap, bass; Matt Wilson, drums

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