Monday, July 21, 2014

Up Close with Matt Wilson

Here's some great, up close action footage of my friend and mentor, Matt Wilson performing with the late, great Charlie Haden and his Liberation Music Orchestra:

It's always a lesson to watch a Master in action but, in particular, check out how much fun Mr. Wilson is having playing the drums with Charlie.

You can also find some great tributes to Haden as well over at Ethan Iverson's find blog, Do The Math:


Here are Matt's touching words of praise and tribute to his friend, Charlie Haden:

"When my wife Felicia and I found out we were having triplets my dear friend and mentor Dewey Redman urged me to call Charlie for support. I recall saying, " Hello Charlie, this is Matt Wilson. and I need to talk to you, but not about music. My wife and I are having triplets." He said, "Wow, man, that is great, man. I am on another call I'll be right back."And he was. We talked for over an hour. It was a beautiful conversation and his words of support were encouraging. Charlie has a son, Josh, and triplet daughters Petra, Tanya and Rachel. I have a daughter, Audrey, and triplet sons Max, Henry and Ethan. 8 kids, 4 ages.We called ourselves the Fathers of Triplets Rhythm Team.

The first time I played with Charlie was in the fall of 2003. We played a concert in San Francisco with Dewey and Joshua Redman. I recall, from the very first beat, how buoyant and comfortable the time felt. Charlie's walking feel seem to purr. It was strong but patient and the shape of his sound embraced the cymbal melody like a big warm hug. It was heaven to play sounds with him. I was thrilled when he phoned and asked me to play in the Liberation Music Orchestra not long after that gig. We rehearsed and started the tour at the Montreal Jazz Festival in the summer of 2004. Also in Montreal, I was honored to play with Charlie and Dewey Redman in a trio concert. I had been playing with Dewey since 1994 and to be included in this setting was a career highlight. They even had me do the set list. I can recall saying out loud to myself in between tunes, "I am really here. This is not a dream. This is UNBELIEVABLE!" There is a bootleg of it out there somewhere that I would love to have. 

The Liberation Music Orchestra experience was special. The arrangements by Carla Bley were extraordinary and the members of the band not only blended musically but personally. We were a real family and the memories of music and fellowship will always be dear to me. I remember playing a rock club with the band in Los Angeles. During a solo I had in the middle of a "America the Beautiful" I strapped on the snare drum and marched the audience out onto the sidewalk in front of the club and then back inside. As I returned I thought to myself, "This could very well be my last night with the band." I sat back down and turned back to look at Charlie with a bit of apprehension. He was smiling and gave me an approving thumbs up along with, "Wooo, Matt Wilson. Yeah man!" 

My daughter Audrey really loved Charlie. They really connected after she first met him. Charlie and his wife Ruth, who were always very kind to Felicia, me and the children, invited me to bring the kids to see a screening of the documentary about Charlie, Ramblin' Boy, at the Walter Reade Theater. This was not long after Felicia was diagnosed with leukemia so I brought Audrey and Ethan to the the theater as a distraction. The film was fantastic and we enjoyed it immensely. While watching, Audrey, who was 12 at the time, counted how many times in the film Charlie said, "Man." After the film and discussion we went up to say hello to Charlie and Ruth and thank them for the invitation. Charlie saw Audrey and greeted her with, " Hi Audrey, nice to see you man." Audrey replied, "Hi Charlie, it is nice to see you."She then quickly whispered in my ear, "Number 39."Priceless. 

I loved talking on the phone with Charlie and tried to do so on regular basis. I remember him playing mixes of the LMO recording, Not In Our Name, over the phone. Charlie always had a good joke to two to share along with political discussions. 

The last time I spoke with him was on June 16 the day after my wife Felicia lost her battle with leukemia. It was brief. His voice was weak but his words were strong. 

Charlie Haden - "I love you man! " I am eternally grateful for the amazing fun we had on the bandstand, the road and on the telephone. Your deep spirit, love and compassion will forever be a part of my musical presence."

- Matt Wilson, from "Do The Math"  

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