Matt Wilson | 1.21.06

Wilson has an extremely carefree look that falls over his entire being as he drums, his puffy hair bobbing around when he so much as taps his drum kit.


Xavier Hall Theatre, Saint Louis University

After seeing a promotional picture of Matt Wilson decked out in thick glasses, a blue bunny suit, and a pocketful of pencils, I knew I was in for one wild ride on that fateful day of January. With a CD called Arts and Crafts, the Matt Wilson quartet (also featuring Larry Goldings, Dennis Irwin, and Terrell Stafford) seems like a funky bunch of guys who truly enjoy being themselves onstage—and this definitely includes embarrassing themselves and/or each other.

Upon entering the theater at St. Louis University, I notice the stage is set with dark red undertone lights, which illuminate an organ, a grand piano, a cello, a drum set, a Leslie speaker, and a couple of microphones.

The people slowly start to trickle in. Sadly, the audience hardly consists of SLU students, but middle-aged adults extremely interested in hearing a great jazz concert. As the band comes onstage, the lights change to a light blue hue—perhaps the lighting designer was attempting to encourage an ambient mindset?

The concert begins with a five-minute trumpet solo, and as Stafford finishes up, the crowd cheers insanely. Wilson has an extremely carefree look that falls over his entire being as he drums, his puffy hair bobbing around when he so much as taps his drum kit. It is difficult not to smile, or even grin, at the invigorating music that is being created.

Irwin takes a solo next, tapping and pulling the strings of his bass as delicately as he would tie his daughter’s shoes. Soon after another thunderous round of applause from the scant audience, Stafford appeared at the front of the stage for another brilliant solo, his cheeks bulging in a style reminiscent of the late Louis Armstrong. The song ends in a cacophony of quick, breathless sounds as Wilson beats on every available surface within reach—the drum shells, the floor, the stands for the cymbals, and his own shoe are all links to this gem of an ending.

“Thank you, St. Louis,” Wilson begins. “We come in peace.” Wilson continued to say that the first song had been entitled “Love Walked In,” composed by George Gershwin. This song was amazingly suitable, as the entire audience seemed to be under Wilson’s spell for the duration of the event.

In the next few hours, Goldings showed the audience numerous delicious organ solos that sounds like the riffs from the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” fused with every great jazz organist from the past; Stafford performed multiple solos with his trumpet after he tucked a mute inside, creating a sound reminiscent of a frightened Minnie Mouse; and Wilson repeatedly wowed the audience with more astounding drumming tricks.

The most rewarding part of the night, however, was the final song. After Wilson announced “Feel the Sway,” the band instantly began to play. It was a number including, but not limited to, a xylophone, various bells, jazzy stanzas of bass, a beautifully wailing trumpet, and a steady drumbeat throughout the whole thing. It starts as a thin beat, almost minute, like a small child. As time passes, though, the number seems to grow into a full-bodied woman, confidently strutting down the street, surrounded by a rich texture of jazzy notes.

Whatever the sway was, we were all feeling it.

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