Matt Wilson’s Good Trouble

Good Trouble

Good Trouble finds Matt Wilson as boisterous and hard-swinging as ever. Resourceful, too: This critic had never heard a contrafact of “Feed The Fire,” Geri Allen’s signature tune, before Wilson’s playful album opener “Fireplace.” The drummer brings his affability as well to Ornette Coleman’s “Feet Music,” spurring his bandmates — alto saxophonist Tia Fuller, tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Jeff Lederer, pianist/vocalist Dawn Clements and bassist Ben Allison — into a downright boogie. Add in a sly, slinky performance of Lederer’s “Albert’s Alley,” and who can resist?

But it’s not all fun and games for Wilson’s new quintet. Good Trouble (both band and album named from the words of the late Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis) has a very serious message about community service. It can manifest as deeply moving, like the gorgeous ode to Lewis “Walk With The Wind” (with some wonderful saxophone interplay between altoist Tia Fuller and tenorist Jeff Lederer), or as a strident call to action, like “RGB,” a tribute to everyone’s favorite Supreme Court justice (again with great sax work, but also a rousing piano solo from Dawn Clements). At its best, it does both at once, like the gospel-cum-calypso closer “Community Spirit.”

There’s also a strain of sweetness to Good Trouble, thanks in large part to Clements’ vocals. She animates the fond ballad “Be That As It May” with a wistful, sinuous delivery. Add joy to that delivery and you have the heartbreaking-in-spite-of-itself rendition of John Denver’s “Sunshine On My Shoulders” that glides gracefully over Wilson’s tu-way pocky-way beat and Ben Allison’s knowing bass line.

Even at its most earnest, though, Good Trouble can’t help but default to Wilson’s sense of fun and humor. “RBG” ends with a vocal chant from the band, urging the listener to “honor her plea/serve your community.” Yet it concludes with gales of laughter as Fuller gleefully shouts, “Matt, you’re so in it!” You will be, too.

On Sale Now
May 2024
Stefon Harris
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