Vermont Jazz Center presents Matt Wilson Trio in a Tribute to Attila Zoller

Grammy Nominated Drummer , Matt Wilson leads his trio in a tribute concert honoring VJC Founder, Attila Zoller

The Vermont Jazz Center will present the Matt Wilson Trio in a concert honoring their founding director, Attila Zoller on Saturday, April 13th at 8:00 PM. Matt Wilson is a highly-acclaimed drummer who was particularly close to Attila, they performed together often during Zoller’s final years. There was always a tremendous affinity between them; perhaps it was Wilson’s deep groove, or his goofy yet powerfully confident persona that Zoller found compelling. Attila was a loveable, brilliant man; however, he wouldn’t tolerate anything but the highest level of competence in the musicians with whom he shared the bandstand (and he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind when those expectations weren’t met!). Matt Wilson is a drummer who could match Attila’s gold standard: skilled, talented, groove-oriented and deeply connected to the lineage of jazz drumming. Matt is also a person who knows how to find the joy inside the music and communicate that to both the audience and his band-mates.

Matt Wilson leads several groups capable of presenting a concert imbued with wit, heavy swing, beauty and mastery; but for his show at the Vermont Jazz Center, Wilson made the conscious decision to emphasize his connection to Attila Zoller by performing with musicians with whom they had previously joined the stage. He chose Fred Haas (saxophone and piano) and Dave Clark (acoustic bass). Since Zoller’s passing, this trio of Wilson, Haas and Clark has maintained a close alliance. Each summer they serve as faculty for “Interplay,” a jazz workshop led by Haas. One of Zoller’s endearing traits was that he loved to host concerts where lots of his friends would gather to perform and celebrate. All three members of this trio were welcome guests at these festive collaborations. Together and apart they joined in performances with Zoller at his famed musical birthday events, at his numerous moon-themed concerts (often organized by Joy Wallens-Penfield) or as members of the faculty of the Vermont Jazz Center Summer Jazz Workshop.

In a recent conversation, Matt discussed his admiration for Attila as a person who had a real vision, who was able to create a home for jazz away from the urban hub of jazz. He started out: “I always seem to be drawn to people who are really open, and Attila was open to playing lots of different musical styles. So if the music was swinging, Attila had a great sound and he would swing hard with the best – like with George Mraz and Tommy Flannagan. Or, if he wanted to open things up and play with Jimmy Raney or Don Friedman or Lee Konitz, like in “The Horizon Beyond,” or “Common Cause,” they would just open up the forms and go to these distant places – It was all so beautiful.”

When asked what he wanted to present for the concert honoring Attila, Matt was quick to respond: “Attila covered a lot of ground: he played great, he wrote great music, he was able to create community around him in a place that he loved. I want to present an evening of music that feature his melodies. We’ll be playing a lot of his tunes without a chordal background so that the audience can actually hear Attila’s beautiful songs in a different context [saxophone, bass and drums]. I’m calling the evening “From A to Z” [similar to Don Friedman’s solo piano album where he performs Attila’s compositions]. We’ll play a bunch of tunes from different eras of his life, including [the bop-like] “Homage to O.P.” and some free stuff modeled after “The Horizon Beyond.” I’ve sketched out a new piece that will be ready for the concert. In general, I want to recognize his music and his spirit, not the guitar.”

Drummer Matt Wilson is a New York based Grammy nominee. He has appeared on 250 CDs as a sideman and has released 9 as a leader for Palmetto Records as well as co-leading 5 additional releases. In 2010 alone, Wilson conducted over 250 outreach programs promoting jazz including an acclaimed Jazz for Young Peoples concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center. He was featured on the covers of both Downbeat and JazzTimes magazines in November 2009 and was for 5 consecutive years voted #1 Rising Star Drummer in the Downbeat Critic’s Poll. The readers of JazzTimes recently chose him as one of the top 4 drummers in the 2010 Readers Poll. In 2003, he was voted Drummer of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. Wilson leads the Matt Wilson Quartet, Arts and Crafts, Christmas Tree-O and the Carl Sandburg Project. Matt is integral part of bands led by Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Charlie Haden, Lee Konitz, Bob Stewart, Denny Zeitlin, Ron Miles, Marty Ehrlich, Ted Nash, Jane Ira Bloom and Dena DeRose among others. He has performed with many legends of music including Herbie Hancock, Dewey Redman, Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, Elvis Costello, Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron, John Zorn, Marshall Allen, Wynton Marsalis, Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell and Hank Jones.
According to Wilson, Saxophonist/Pianist, Fred Haas “was inspired by the precedent of Zoller – he took that energy of Attila in the arena of education, took that openness and added his own vibe and created his own educational program that wasn’t based on a university or school.” Fred is the Founder and Director of Interplay Jazz Camp, a week-long holistic jazz workshop that integrates meditation, yoga and natural foods to enhance creativity and support a relaxed approach to practicing and performing. Fred has performed with Oscar Peterson, Ray Charles, Clark Terry, Sheila Jordan, Pat Metheny, Lena Horne, Dionne Warwick, The Mitchell-Ruff Duo, Joe Morello, Milt Hinton, Attila Zoller, Don Cherry, Bob Brookmeyer, Gene Bertoncini, Milt Jackson, Louis Bellson, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Karrin Allyson, Dena DeRose, Matt Wilson and many others. Haas is a Senior Lecturer at Dartmouth College, where he teaches Jazz Improvisation, Jazz History, Music Theory, Saxophone, Jazz Piano and directs several jazz combos.

The bassist of the group is Dave Clark, who has had a long distinguished career as a performer bass instructor at Berklee school of music. Dave has appeared on over 40 albums including Gunther Schuller’s Orange then Blue with George Adams and Howard Johnson, Dick Johnson, Maggie Scott, Didi Stewart, Cercie Miller, Lisa Thorson, Billy Novick, Ed Sainden with Dave Liebman, and Armen Donelian. Dave is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts jazz grant, the Eunice Shay Award for Outstanding Musical Achievement, and the Mass Council for the Arts Award for Jazz Composition.

On Saturday, April 13th at 8:00 PM, come enjoy a show at the Vermont Jazz Center that focuses on the significance of its founder through a creative, musical journey. This concert will include compositions primarily by Zoller and will demonstrate how (to quote Matt Wilson), Attila “created a legacy, he made a scene wherever he went. He was one of the first people to lead a jazz workshop with REAL players like Jimmy Heath, George Mraz, Don Friedman, Jim Hall, Lee Konitz. Atilla moved to this area in Vermont and created a jazz legacy.” This concert will pay tribute to the larger-than-life figure many of us knew and loved. Come listen, as Matt Wilson dons the hat of a troubadour; let yourself be drawn into Zoller’s marvelous compositions as they are woven into the fabric of story-telling.

The Matt Wilson Trio at the Vermont Jazz Center is made possible due to the generous support of Dave Snyder and Guilford Sound. The VJC also thanks the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, The Hampton Inn of Brattleboro and VPR and WFCR.

Tickets for the Matt Wilson Trio on April 13th are $20 for general admission, and $15 for students with I.D. (contact VJC about educational discounts). Tickets are available at In the Moment Record Store in Brattleboro, online at or they can be reserved by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line, 802-254-9088, ext. 1.

Next up at the Vermont Jazz Center will be Dr. Bebop: HOWARD BROFSKY AND FRIENDS on Saturday, May 18th at 8 p.m.

Leave a Reply