Local Artist Spotlight: Wilder Deitz

  • Post Author
    by Web manager
  • Post Date
    Mon Aug 15 2016

Madison artist Wilder Deitz on blending genres, the new album Child's Play from the Wilder Deitz Group, and bringing music (back) to the people at the Darbo-Worthington Block Party.

July marked the release of the Wilder Deitz Group's first studio recording, Child's Play. The fledgling Madison group consists of a core of four musicians in a traditional jazz combo setting: piano, saxophone, bass, and drums. But is this a jazz album? Not strictly. Drawing from influences that range from French pop to Mos Def, Wilder Deitz is quick to correct the assumption that he comes primarily from a jazz background. “My background is in folk music, and by folk music, I by no means mean to exclude jazz. I think jazz is a form of folk music.”


Deitz expands this idea of “folk music” to include hip hop, too. This understanding is immediately apparent on Child's Play, for which Deitz composed a majority of the music. Putting the first track “Hushbottom Flower” and the single “Be Mine” side-by-side, a listener might think that they're hearing two separate artists. The former includes a hammered dulcimer floating over a triplet-based folksy groove. Meanwhile, the single showcases contemporary R&B vocals by Deja Mason and Nikeya Bramlett, and a crunchy bassline played on an electronic wind instrument. “Hushbottom Flower” sounded most at home alongside Pat Metheny's 80/81 or One Quiet Night, while the single “Be Mine” is far more reminiscent of Snarky Puppy's work with vocalists N'Dambi and Lalah Hathaway on Family Dinner, Volume 1.

“There's some jazz chords in there, but there's a lot more going on than just jazz,” says Deitz of the single. And the same can be said for the entire album. Deitz's core group is what makes the album cohesive. As he brings in a score of other Madison musicians whose backgrounds and traditions vary widely, Child's Play still has the bones of a jazz album. Modern jazz fans will particularly enjoy Deitz's “The Squeeze” and saxophonist Alex Charland's “Violets.”


A relatively young face on Madison's music scene, Deitz mentors younger artists at East High School, his alma mater. He sees this synthesis of genres as something that many younger musicians have a great facility for. “In my experience, it's been a really natural thing for people, it's not a conscious thing, blending all of these influences.” Deitz wants these talents to be showcased right where they blossom, and in his mind, events like the upcoming Darbo-Worthington Block Party are a perfect opportunity.

“This project is really a good example of the kind of stuff that I want to see in the city, where we have music by people from the neighborhood, as well as elsewhere, […]… making music where people actually live.” In Deitz's mind, the key to growing Madison's music scene is to increase access and visibility. “We have these awesome events that happen, but they're just so tight in the isthmus, […] it's getting hard for folks to live close to these events.”

The musical lineup for the block party, organized by Deitz, features four artists – three from Madison, and one from across the state line in Peoria, Illinois. Madison's DJ Salinger will bring a mix of trap sounds to the main stage at 4pm, followed by a blend of hip hop, jazz, R&B and more from Madison's SOULMEN at 5:30pm. Illinois-based hip hop act 1neofmani will perform at 6:30pm, and the neighborhood's own Wilder Deitz Group will headline the show at 7:30pm. We will offer coverage following the event, online at

For Deitz, pulling Madison's neighborhoods together around their favorite local music is “the forefront, it's not downtown, it's… the places where people actually live, and work, and are trying to get by and do their thing.” Along with events that attract national names to the isthmus, Wilder Deitz hopes that music will become more of  “a community thing, where people get to see the music that they want to see, in their neighborhood – increase access to the arts that way.”

The following segment first aired on WSUM on Tuesday, August 9, 2016. Take a listen!

The Wilder Deitz Group's new album, Child's Play, was released in July 2016. The group is on Facebook. They perform at the Darbo-Worthington Block Party on August 25, and the Stoughton Opera House in Stoughton on October 6.

Adam Maisto hosts Mad City Groove Cruise on WSUM, Tuesdays from 8-10pm. Tune in on 91.7 FM in Madison or online at Listeners can connect with the show on Facebook.