Drummer Matt Wilson's 11th studio album, 2014's Gathering Call, finds the oft-enthusiastic jazz bandleader teaming up with pianist John Medeski. The album is a reunion of sorts, as both Wilson and Medeski were members of Russ Gershon's Either/Orchestra during the late '80s. Individually, both Wilson and Medeski are iconoclasts who have forged careers in jazz on their own terms, making music that is at some turns traditional and, at others, completely irreverent and absurdist. Here, Wilson and Medeski are joined by several equally creative and left-of-center sidemen in cornet player Kirk Knuffke, saxophonist Jeff Lederer, and bassist Chris Lightcap. Perhaps not surprisingly, Gathering Call is a jubilant, unhinged affair featuring songs that showcase the ensemble's knack for energetic, bop-influenced compositions that constantly flirt with the skronk and meandering improvisational style of avant-garde jazz without ever going completely atonal. This stuff really swings and Wilson propels the band through each song with his characteristic sense of humor and love of group interplay. Tracks like the buoyant "Some Assembly Required" ramble and dance with '60s-era harmolodicism à la Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. Elsewhere, Wilson and Medeski's longstanding love of groove-oriented funk and soul comes to the fore on the Horace Silver-esque "Get Over, Get Off and Get On." There are even several ruminative, long-form pieces, such as "Dancing Waters" and "Hope (For the Cause)," that showcase the more introspective nature of the band and bring to mind works by Charlie Haden and Keith Jarrett. Ultimately, whether a reunion or a call to arms, Gathering Call is a joy to hear.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar