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Matt Wilson's Arts and Crafts band returns to play in Jazz SLC series

By Jeff Metcalf

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Feb. 14 2013 4:51 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Matt Wilson's Arts and Crafts band will appear at the Capitol Theatre, Monday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Jazz SLC’s second concert of the 2013 season. Appearing on stage with drummer and bandleader Wilson will be his longtime trio of musicians Terell Stafford (trumpet/flugelhorn), Gary Versace (piano/organ/accordion) and Martin Wind (bass).

“We’re excited to be back in Salt Lake,” said Wilson in a recent phone interview. “These guys are not only some of the greatest players in the business, but they are also wonderful characters. And I truly like characters so it’s great fun to play with them.”

The name of Wilson’s quartet, Arts and Crafts, invites conversation. “It’s pretty simple," he said. "I loved doing craft projects as a child with my mother. The combination of creating with what you have and the folk aspect of craft projects seems to relate to jazz.”

What intrigued Wilson most about the jazz form was the liberating sense of exploration jazz musicians had and how they could allow music to wander off to different places without getting lost.

As a young musician growing up in the farmland of Illinois, Wilson would listen to any jazz group that came to town. All his "buddies" listened to jazz and pretty soon he found himself following suit. “If there was a concert within driving range and we could get to it, we would,” said Wilson. “One time, three of us heard Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson and Count Basie all in one week. It was a pretty big deal for three farm kids.”

Wilson is a busy musician and his quartet is in constant demand. Before arriving for the Jazz SLC concert, the band will play four concerts in less than 10 days at venues ranging from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to the Brubeck Room at the Wilton (Conn.) Library. It’s a taxing schedule that suits Wilson’s personality well.

“I love being busy," he said. "In the last year I’ve played with 55 different musicians and groups. I do take time off to vacation with the kids and my dogs, but after a while, I get restless and I’m ready to get back to work.”

On stage, it is clear that Wilson is in the driver’s seat. What makes him unique in the profession is how effortlessly he guides transitions between musician to musician without attempting to reign in each member’s strength. Quite the opposite, he encourages and celebrates this sort of relationship and exploration. “I’m lucky," he said. "These musicians are great conversationalists. That’s the beauty. It’s always different and interesting and the colors and range of music we discover makes it fun to play together.”

The quartet will feature an eclectic mix of jazz that ranges from cuts off Wilson's most recent album, "An Attitude for Gratitude," to a more conventional showcase of jazz tunes.

“I never create an evening of jazz that is fixed in what I think the audience might want to hear,” Wilson said. “Instead, we look for those human moments when music and an audience come together. It always changes with every concert.”

If you go:

When: Monday, Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City

Tickets: ($25 adults/$10 students) Call ArtTix at 801-355-ARTS

Jeff Metcalf is a professor of English at the University of Utah and an avid jazz fan.

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