Matt Wilson’s Honey and Salt
If Illinois has turned out a musician who is full of joie de vivre and the true spirit of Americana more than Knoxville native Matt Wilson, he or she has to be in hiding somewhere. A brilliant, charismatic drummer who commands the room (or the park) whether he’s fronting a large band or playing solo, he is precisely the kind of crowd-pleaser the jazz-is-dead crowd needs to listen to more. In his hands, the music and the traditions it carries are never more alive.
On his beautiful new album, Honey and Salt, Wilson celebrates his Illinois roots by paying timely tribute to one of our cultural icons, poet Carl Sandburg, who died 50 years ago this past July. “I feel sometimes that of all the celebrated American poets, he doesn’t really get his due,” said Wilson, whose approach to music has been inspired from the start by Sandburg’s free verse. His first album, As Wave Follows Wave, takes its title from a 1936 work by the “poet of the people.” Here’s hoping his latest adventurous treatments of works by Sandburg will help raise his profile.
Honey and Salt, named after Sandburg’s early-’50s poem and collection, features spoken recitations by jazz greats including Carla Bley, Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell, plus actor Jack Black. Today, those duties will fall to Canadian singer and guitarist Dawn Thomson and three longtime compadres of Wilson’s, cornetist Ron Miles, reed player Jeff Lederer and bassist Martin Wind. Expect to hear some Aaron Copland in the music as well as some Louis Armstrong. “Lock not away your love nor keep it hid,” Sandburg wrote in “Honey and Salt.” No one has taken that directive more to heart than Matt Wilson, who a role model himself in projecting positive feeling.