For his fourth Palmetto CD, Matt Wilson sends his regular quartet on a brief vacation and recruits Terell Stafford on trumpet, Larry Goldings on piano (not organ), and Dennis Irwin on bass. Previous efforts with the Matt Wilson Quartet and with Dewey Redman have gained Wilson a left-of-center reputation, but on Arts and Crafts the drummer confounds expectations altogether. He begins with Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Stompin' Grounds," a no-frills ride through "Stompin' at the Savoy" changes. Two tracks later, the band runs down Bud Powell's "Webb City," packing an enormous punch without exceeding four minutes.
It's easy to imagine the phone calls, drummer Matt Wilson made, using his best imitation of Elwood from the 1980 Blues Brothers movie, "We're putting the band back together, we're on a mission from God." And like that, current members and alumni of the drummer's bands: the Matt Wilson Quartet, Arts & Crafts, and Christmas Tree-O assembled to commune and revisit the music Wilson's late wife Felicia loved. This recording was Wilson's first since he lost his wife to leukemia in 2014. It certainly was fitting to perform the compositions she loved, and by the performers Felicia considered her extended family. Instead of a wake, the music is a celebration. One crafted in the true Wilson fashion, without written arrangements or rehearsals.