New CD reviews: Matt Wilson + John Medeski, Angel Haze

  • Updated: February 3, 2014 - 2:51 PM
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Matt Wilson Quartet

JAZZ

Matt Wilson Quartet + John Medeski, “Gathering Call” (Palmetto)

You can’t talk about drummer Wilson without talking about swing, that pulse of jazz that’s been his specialty on more than 250 recordings as a sideman. Reconvening his longtime quartet, Wilson again shines with some unexpected help in keyboardist Medeski.

Often lumped into some jam-band ghetto for his ventures with the avant-funk trio Medeski Martin and Wood, Medeski’s talents have long been harder to pigeonhole, including a contemplative solo record in 2013. Here, he’s a precisely moving part on an album that should be mandatory listening for traditionalists and jazz-curious Phish-heads alike.

“Some Assembly Required” crackles through an irresistible thrust from Wilson, who gives way to sterling solos from saxophonist Jeff Lederer and cornetist Kirk Knuffke before Medeski enters with a gleefully off-kilter turn. Wilson takes a playful run at the Ellington songbook with “Main Stem” and “You Dirty Dog,” and “How Ya Going” surges with a locomotive rush as the band twists the song into knots. “Get Over, Get Off and Get On” sparkles with vintage soul jazz, and Charlie Rouse’s “Pumpkin’s Delight” glides over Chris Lightcap’s nimble bass line before a howling solo from Lederer. Even Beyoncé comes to the party with a romantic take on “If I Were a Boy” that’s as exuberant as the rest of the album.

Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times

HIP-HOP

Angel Haze, “Dirty Gold” (Island/Republic)

With her taunting, confessional lyrics, raw production sensibility and ferocious rapping, everything Angel Haze did before “Dirty Gold” had the force of a young woman catapulted from a cage. The thirst for knowledge, the rage of dealing with sexual abuse and the pure power of music itself (she was kept from popular song due to her strict faith) burst forth from her “Voice” EP and her mixtapes.

The desire for confrontation pushed her to leak “Dirty Gold” after her label moved its release date to March. She wanted out. Her music insisted on it.

Yet much of “Dirty Gold” sounds less insistent than her past work. There’s a hurt urgency to the rap and braggart’s brio on “Echelon (It’s My Way),” the complex emotionalism of “Black Dahlia” and the mix of old-school optimism and new-school electricity on “A Tribe Called Red.” But she’s straining to make missteps such as the limp balladry of “Battle Cry” and the prog-pop of “Angels & Airwaves” into something they’re not (interesting), with the album’s production suffering from a distancing, cool slickness. Good, not great.

A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer

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