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The Scenic Route

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Album Review

Factionalism has been terrible for the jazz world, which has been plagued with many divisive, ugly debates over the merits of bebop vs. Dixieland, hard bop vs. cool, hard bop vs. fusion, etc.; as one jazz promoter put it, jazz is a small enough market as it is without splitting it up into a bunch of warring factions. But gratefully, jazz has also had its share of flexible, broad-minded individuals, and Matt Wilson's flexibility continues to serve him well on The Scenic Route. As a drummer/composer, Wilson has made it clear that he is comfortable with both inside and outside playing; The Scenic Route is much more inside than outside, although two of the songs that Wilson tackles with pleasing results are Ornette Coleman's "Rejoicing" and Donald Ayler's "Our Prayer" (which is successfully combined with the Beatles' "Give Peace a Chance"). But The Scenic Route, despite some occasional detours into the avant-garde, usually favors a hard bop/post-bop approach; that is the approach that prevails on "We See" (one of Thelonious Monk's lesser-known pearls) as well as Wilson originals that include the pensive "25 Years of Rootabagas," the infectious "Feel the Sway" (which favors a dusky, nocturnal groove along the lines of the theme from The Odd Couple), and the playful title track (a boogaloo). Another highlight of this 56-minute CD is Wilson's thoughtful arrangement of Pat Metheny's "The Bat," which ends up becoming more post-bop than fusion. The drummer oversees a solid team of players on The Scenic Route, including trumpeter/flügelhornist Terell Stafford, pianist/organist Gary Versace, bassist Dennis Irwin, and even a female vocal trio dubbed the Swayettes (who aren't used extensively but provide background vocals on occasion). Despite the Swayettes' presence, The Scenic Route is an instrumental album first and foremost — and it is also a consistently appealing illustration of the open-mindedness that Wilson brings to the table.

Customer Reviews

A Great Detour Through A New Type Of Music

Just recently I saw Matt live doing a performance, and his infectious sense of humor and relaxed countenance (in addition to the awesome music) prompted me to buy his CD. About the CD... Matt has recruited new members of his band, and named it Arts and Crafts. The type of Jazz would be hardbop, but occasionally Matt and the guys head in a more avant garde area of music. The instrumentation is very balanced, and all the musicians are extremely talented. The quartet has everything you'd expect: trumpet/flugelhorn, bass, drums, but something a little different is pipe organ, which lends a soulful, funky touch to the band's sound. Myself being a drummer, I appreciate Matt's skill on the set; his light touch that is still able to fill the recording with feeling. He is continuously using new and different hand instruments that make him more of a percussionist than just a drummer. The band has tried so many new things on this recording, and the results have paid off. My personal favorites are Feel the Sway (an addictive song with one of the catchiest bass lines ever) and In Touch with Dewey (a tribute to a late band member). True, this CD is not for those seeking smooth jazz. Those of us used to the predictable riffs and hooks of a smooth jazz song might not enjoy this recording at first, but listen a few times, and you might enjoy it. Try buying just one song (I recommend Feel the Sway because it will give you a great taste for their style), then see what you think.

The Scenic Route

Never heard of these guys before but they can sure play. Especially like "Feel The Sway", but all the cuts are great. Worthy addition to any jazz lover's collection.


Born: September 27, 1964 in Knoxville, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Flexible, subtle drummer Matt Wilson gained a strong reputation with his debut recording as a leader, a 1996 set for Palmetto that prominently features tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman. Wilson started playing drums in grade school; he studied at Wichita State University and spent time in the Midwest, both as a freelancer and as a teacher. In 1987 he moved to Boston, where he was soon playing with the Either/Orchestra and the Charlie Kohlhase Quintet. In 1992 Wilson relocated to New York, where he has...
Full Bio
The Scenic Route, Matt Wilson
View In iTunes
  • $9.90
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Jan 23, 2007

Customer Ratings