Matt Wilson Quartet‘s late summer Hug! is a hopeful reminder of one of the things we miss the most. While a virtual hug is not a hug, a sonic hug can offer a form of internal warmth. This is the drummer’s 14th album, and here he is reunited with Jeff Lederer (sax), Kirk Knuffke (cornet) and Chris Lightcap (bass). The album is a mix of originals and covers, so upbeat that at the end one does feel a sense of embrace.
So let’s start with that single and its simple yet infectious video. This track has been producing contagious smiles since April. The key to its success is the rare instrumental earworm, a brass charmer that sticks in the head and forces the lips to hum. The homemade video is part of its charm; everything we’re seeing online is homemade these days. The graphics are charmingly retro, the dogs are patient and the kids are adorable.
Of course we have to talk about “Space Force March / Interplanetary Music.” The track is somewhat of a novelty, built around samples of everybody’s least favorite president talking about his dream achievement, a “separate but equal” Space Force. Imagine The Flintstones at a parade, boisterous chants and a tongue-in-cheek attitude too bold for Public Broadcasting Service. The topical nature of the track may shorten its shelf life, so we’re hoping for another video.
Of the covers, “King of the Road” is a standout, with playful bass and carefree brass. Wilson is having a blast behind the drum kit, playing with aplomb. The stops and starts of Gene Ammons’ “The One Before This” make a fine lead-off to the set, shifting between composition and improvisation. Tune after tune, the album yields a sense of exuberance, so it’s no surprise that one of the tracks is named “Joie De Vivre.” For the same reason, it’s easy to see why our friends at All About Jazz mispelled Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Jabaloni” as “Jubulani;” it does sound jubilant, and the title means “joy.”
“Sunny and Share” is a cute pun, and while listening we can picture everything from the Charleston to slam dancing. By the time we have to say “Hamba Kahle (Goodbye),” we’ve been introduced to a cornucopia of styles and speeds. These timbres are so happy that we can already imagine the album playing on the day we celebrate victory over the pandemic with hugs and cheers. (Richard Allen)