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Matt Wilson Keeps Jazz Listeners Guessing - And Thirsty For More

Drummer Matt Wilson, with musicians from "Honey and Salt: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Carl Sandburg"
Drummer Matt Wilson, with musicians from "Honey and Salt: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Carl Sandburg"

Matt Wilson personifies the spontaneous energy of jazz. He's a drummer's drummer who seems to be everywhere at once, teaching, playing, recording, and bringing jazz to new audiences with the motto: "The answer is YES ... if it's legal."

Host John Floridis and Missoula drummer-percussionist-teacher Ed Stalling sat down with Wilson to ask how he bridges the "moat" between performer and audience, and to hear the backstory to his much-lauded recent recording, "Honey and Salt: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Carl Sandburg."

Matt Wilson has anchored an all-star group at the White House, juggled tricky rhythmic swerves with his own quartets, celebrated the holidays with his Christmas Tree-O, sensitively supporting vocalists such as Dena DeRose and Elvis Costello, recorded thirteen albums as leader and co-led another dozen, presented concerts at a neighborhood church and donned a superhero cape to inspire young musicians to embrace their individuality.  He approaches music as a man on a mission: fostering a lively and passionate connection between music and people, whether they be playing or listening to it.

"There are a few more dazzling drummers working today, but almost nobody in Wilson's peer group with a broader grasp of jazz or a more natural sense of time, or a stronger signature as a band leader, or more goodwill among his fellow players."

Nate Chinen, "JazzTimes"

(Broadcast:  Musician's Spotlight ,  3/24/20. Listen on the radio Tuesdays, 7 p.m., or  via podcast.)

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

John Floridis, the host and producer of Musician's Spotlight, has been with Montana Public Radio since 1997. He has interviewed over 200 musicians during that time from household names like B.B. King, Alison Krauss and Lyle Lovett, to Montana musicians such as Eden Atwood, Darko Butarac and Tom Catmull. He is also an independent recording and performing artist in his own right and a former registered music therapist.
Beth Anne Austein has been spinning tunes on the air (The Folk Show, Dancing With Tradition, Freeforms), as well as recording, editing and mixing audio for Montana Public Radio and Montana PBS, since the Clinton Administration. She’s jockeyed faders or "fixed it in post” for The Plant Detective; Listeners Bookstall; Fieldnotes; Musicians Spotlight; The Write Question; Storycorps; Selected Shorts; Bill Raoul’s music series; orchestral and chamber concerts; lecture series; news interviews; and outside producers’ programs about topics ranging from philosophy to ticks.