CTNow: As a musician, you have an extroverted personality. Is it more difficult for young players who are more introverted? Is that where a type of mentorship can help out, to pull in some musicians who perhaps are not as comfortable with social interaction?
MW: That's a great question. I gave a masterclass on Wednesday at the Manhattan School of Music, and I didn't talk about playing all that much. I talked about these kinds of things: being gracious to your fellow musicians, being gracious to your audience… I want there to be a little more overt enthusiasm going on. I don't want to be fake either, but I'm just still puzzled. When did it become not hip to have fun doing this? Entertaining is not a bad word. When you're entertaining someone in your home, you're being gracious. You create relationships with those folks [in the audience].
In the old days, bands would come to town fairly often. [People] not only got to hear the music, but they got to know the musicians a lot more. They'd come through Hartford two or three times a year on their way to Boston, or they'd come through Indianapolis two times a year, and they'd not only be there, they'd be there for extended days, so that people had a chance to visit with them, maybe invite them over for dinner. Now, because most of the concerts are collegiate-based, we only really get to visit every four or five years. We have to try to figure out ways to get back sooner sometimes.
CTNow: What sound were you trying to get on "Gathering Call?"
MW: We started at noon, and we were done at 6:30. Most of the records I've done, I just do them all in one shot. Some of the music has been in the repertoire for awhile, and those songs actually ended up being very different versions too. But we didn't even run things down. We just talked about it and tried it, and most of those first takes are the ones.
I love that first take, where there's no "how's it supposed to go" vibe. There are always songs you have to work at a few times, to try to figure out a shape, and then there are ones that come really easy and ones that you're not sure about. We got done with the version of "Barack Obama," and we were like, "Wow, I don't know about that." We listened to it, and it's great.
What I really like about "Gathering Call" is that it's really swinging. Swing is not only the melody of time for me, which is an important part of my musical world, but I think the symbolism of swing — flexibility, trust, when the unexpected is welcome — there are some beautiful moments of it on there. There's no sense in defending that we're playing swing, because we really put our signature on it. It was 2013 when we made the record, and we played the music as if it was that day. It wasn't like we were trying to recreate anything. I think that's a strong point of the record, that the stuff that's swinging on there is really now.
CTNow: There are so many players now that are turning their backs on swing.
MW: It's the music I grew up playing, and it's what I connect with. I've put a lot of time into it, and I feel an allegiance for that feel. To be honest, it's something that I can do, and there are ways of doing it. If you say "that's swing," it's like saying "that's rock," or "that's art." There are a lot of different kinds of feels you can open up. Swing is not just a beat, it's a welcoming of sound. All of these guys do that really well.
Feel, in music, is really the key, how something feels. And that could be beat or the way things interact. I have the utmost respect for anyone who's trying to do their art, and I'm down. That's what I'm trying to offer. And in this case, I think "Gathering Call" is an honest performance, and that's why it sounds fresh.
MATT WILSON QUARTET with John Medeski appears Tuesday, Jan. 28, at The Side Door, 85 Lyme St., Old Lyme. Tickets are $35. Show time is 8:30 p.m. Information: 860-434-0886, thesidedoorjazz.com.