Matt Wilson’s Big Happy Family, Beginning Of A Memory (Palmetto)
The title belies the pain of the loss that inspired Matt Wilson’s essentially jovial—even jocular—album. The drummer assembled a dozen of his musical colleagues to celebrate his wife Felicia, who died of leukemia two years ago. “Flowers For Felicia” and “July Hymn,” are instances of quiet remembrance amid 17 tracks that embrace the keen musicianship, spontaneity and humor (often raucous) that are core elements of Wilson’s musical and personal style. Pieces like “No Outerwear” and “25 Years Of Rootabagas” match Wilson’s disciplined, outré approach to life and work. The enthusiasm and abandon of his solo on “Schoolboy Thug” typify a philosophy embraced throughout the album by trumpeter Terrell Stafford, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, saxophonists Joel Frahm and Jeff Lederer, bassist Martin Wind and accordionist Gary Versace, among others. In his brief notes, Wilson writes that, “Felica …was all about love.” So is this album.