Matt Wilson - Honey and Salt

Label/Year: Palmetto, 2017

Lineup – Dawn Thomson: guitar, vocals; Jeff Lederer: reeds, harmonium, vocals; Ron Miles: cornet; Martin Wind: acoustic bass guitar; Matt Wilson: drums.


Experienced American drummer Matt Wilson takes inspiration in the poetry of Carl Sandburg, poet of the people, for his new genre-bending outing, Honey and Salt, which features a talented group of musicians, and readings by guest jazz luminaries such as John Scofield, Carla Bley, Joe Lovano, Christian McBride, and more. Sandburg was a native of Illinois, as well as Wilson, who, well acquainted with the poet’s work, arranged the tunes in such a way that music and poetry could coexist symbiotically.

Throughout the 18 short pieces of the album, each one enveloped by a specific genre and mood, the band alternates between adventurous and prevailing approaches.

Soup” is a great opening, carrying the spirit of The Lounge Lizards on its shoulders and boasting a blues-rock guitar riff inscribed on the surface of a convivial rhythmic core. The vocalist/guitarist Dawn Thomson assumes the leadership, and the tune also marvels through parallel melodies delivered conjointly by Jeff Lederer and Ron Miles, on the saxophone and cornet, respectively.

Vibrating with lofty rhythmic accentuations, “Anywhere and Everywhere People” exhibits Martin Wind’s loose bass grooves and Thomson’s frank guitar chops over a funky beat that stimulates the improvisers to operate within the same time frame.

If “Stars, Songs, Face” is clearly a product of the pop genre, “As Wave Follows Wave”, “Bringers”, and “I Sang” bring accentuated folk scents attached to their melodies. They all have this ear-pleasing balladic nature in common. Country music is also represented through “Prairie Barn” and “Offering and Rebuff”, even if the latter,  mutates at a certain point to take a more pop direction. 

We Must Be Polite”, narrated by Scofield with an emphasis that occasionally reminisces Zappa, as well as “Choose”, are conducted with a similar fanfare-ish, animated stomp. The groovy throbs of the former tune become a formidable motivation for Lederer’s energetic blows and salient timbral maneuvers. The latter piece seems to have been inspired by Broadway musicals and classic films, exhibiting heroic snare ruffs n' rolls, and counterpointed cornet/flute melodic lines.

Wilson wouldn’t leave the jazz aside, and on “Snatch of Sliphorn Jazz”, he embarks on an interesting dialogue with Lederer, now blowing the soprano sax. All the impetuosity he conjures up on “Paper 2”, an alluring postbop momentum that swings and refreshes, is refrained on the following piece, “Trafficker”, which gets closer to Miles Davis’ cool line of action.
Pretty distinctive is “Night Stuff”, a slow paced procession propelled by Wilson’s mallet drumming, Thomson’s smart comping, and Lederer’s sweet melodic sketches on clarinet.

Everything ends in a joyful samba fashion with “Daybreak”, in which the warm vocalization increases the singableness of the very Brazilian melodies.

Honey and Salt provides moments of pure delight. Regardless the setting, Wilson’s ardent passion can be felt every time he wisely hits a piece of his drum kit.

        Grade  A-

        Grade A-

Favorite Tracks: 
01 – Soup ► 05 – We Must Be Polite ► 13 – Paper 2