Matt Wilson is the sort of jazz musician who insists on keeping his options open. The flexible drummer/percussionist is comfortable in straightahead situations, but he is also well acquainted with the pleasures of the avant-garde--and Humidity falls into that category. This 2002 date finds Wilson favoring an inside/outside approach, and he does so while leading a pianoless quartet that includes two reedmen (Andrew D'Angelo and Jeff Lederer) and bassist Yousuke Inoue (who is heard on both the acoustic and electric models). Three other musicians are listed as "very special guests"--violinist Felicia Wilson, trumpeter John Carlson and trombonist Curtis Hasselbring--but the members of the quartet are the main players. Humidity gets off to a very Ornette Coleman-influenced start with the opener "Thank You, Billy Higgins," which recalls the late Higgins' work with Coleman's trailblazing quartet of the early ‘60s. And the Coleman influence is equally strong on "Swimming in the Trees". But Humidity is far from a Coleman tribute album; after acknowledging the saxman's work on the first few selections, Wilson moves on to other things--and they range from a Middle Eastern-influenced jam titled "Raga" to the AACM-like "Cooperation" (which uses space in a way that would be appropriate for an Anthony Braxton or Roscoe Mitchell disc). Although Wilson's own material dominates the CD, he does interpret two well known standards: "Don't Blame Me" and Tadd Dameron's "Our Delight". But instead of playing them the same old bebop/hard bop way, Wilson comes up with interpretations that are angular and quirky. Myopic bop snobs will accuse Wilson of heresy and insist that he is defiling sacred ground, but thankfully, Wilson knows better than to be swayed by dogmatists--and that attitude serves him well on this fairly unpredictable avant-garde effort.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson