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Feel the Sway with Matt Wilson’s Arts and Crafts at the Green Mill


As one steps back and takes a good look at all of the jazz that is out there, all the different musical directions that have developed and are developing right now, it can be overwhelming.   To boot, much jazz music is quite serious in nature (don’t get me wrong, much of that serious music is quite inspiring) but when one is listening to a jazz suite composed over the John Donne poems that based on death (this is fictional, by the way) you have to ask…where has the fun gone in jazz.

The answer, quite simply, is Matt Wilson.  Fun seems to flow out of every pore of Wilson’s being.  His personality is fun, his playing is fun, his teaching is fun, his on stage persona is hysterical.  He recently led an educational workshop in New York on how to make free jazz fun.  Not to mention he is one the greatest and most respected drummers in all of jazz.  He has played with a long list of players, including Dewey Redman, Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano, Cecil McBee, Dena DeRose, and Bill Mays.  Wilson has established himself as one of New York’s most in-demand sidemen, not only because he is one of the few who can authentically play in straight ahead and avant-garde styles, but because he is perpetually plugged in to whatever group he part of with every musical atom of his being.

As if that isn’t enough, Matt has also proven himself to be one of the best and eclectic bandleaders in jazz.  Perhaps his most popular group is the quartet, Arts and Crafts, which will making a Chicago appearance at the Green Mill on Friday, May 4th (9PM-1AM, $12 Cover) and Saturday, May 5th (8PM – Midnight, $12 Cover).

The band name itself seems to imply the fun that kids have at camp gluing popsicle sticks together.  The band’s music does not disappoint in that respect.  This band features some of the best musicians in the world who share Wilson’s philosophy, including Terrell Stafford on trumpet, Martin Wind on bass, as well as Gary Versace on organ, piano, and accordion.

Arts and Crafts is now twelve years old (started on his fourth album in 2000) and showing no signs of slowing down.  Their new album, An Attitude for Graditude, is another stellar addition to the group’s many fine recordings.  This recording features an eclectic collection of material from Nat Adderly’s “Little Boy With the Sad Eyes” to Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.  Unlike jazz written over dour poetry, Wilson’s original “Bubbles” is based on the optimistic Carl Sandburg poem.  True to form, the group delights with a mix of melodramatic overtures, tongue-in-cheek musical humor, and hard swing.  I’m sure the shows at the Green Mill will be just as wonderful.