When I was ten years old I spent much of my time, when not in the classroom, playing football, kickball or baseball on the playground and dreaming (in vain) of professional stardom. Young W.A. Mozart spent much of his time composing and performing, and so, I assume, does wunderkind
Matt Savage, who has no doubt set the standard for ten-year-old pianists for years to come. Chasing Your Tail
is, believe it or not, the young prodigy's third album as leader of his own trio (the first was recorded when he was a mere lad of eight).
Even though he's barely into double figures age-wise, Savage is no novelty act. The kid has decent chops and can play. No, not yet as well as Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett, Kenny Barron, Hank Jones or other established poll-winners (even though his mom and dad may think otherwise), but he's working on that and apparently having a ball doing it. It's a kick hearing Matt tell the audience at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, FL, in his high-pitched little-boy voice that they are & quot;about to witness the world premiere of four new songs" – all of which he composed. Actually, Savage wrote seven of the ten numbers on his latest album, including the title selection. One of them, the free-wheeling "All Jazzed Up," was the title of his second CD. The others are "The Music Box," "Firecracker," "Forty-Seven," "El Fuego" and "Shufflin" the Cards."
To show his versatility and familiarity with more established works, Matt performs Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge," Johnny Green's "Body and Soul" and closes with "My Favorite Things," which Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg would no doubt be surprised to learn they wrote (but not as surprised as Rodgers and Hammerstein!).
As usual, he is accompanied by his regular (and full-grown) rhythm section, bassist John Funkhouser and drummer Steve Silverstein, who are so accomplished they spend a good deal of their time teaching others but don't seem at all uncomfortable supporting a ten-year-old whiz kid. On the contrary, they seem to relish the assignment, having traveled around the country and overseas with Matt and performed on at least two of his albums (and probably all three, but I don't have the first one at hand to verify the personnel). Funkhouser is rock-steady, Silverstein sharp and nimble, especially with brushes, which he uses often.
One thing Savage does that other jazz musicians could learn from is talk to the audience, using his exuberant voice and personality to let them know something about each of his compositions. It's clear he enjoys doing that as well as entertaining them at the keyboard. An ideal pairing for Matt's next album, if it could be arranged, would be the Matt Savage Trio with special guest Francesco Cafiso, the thirteen-year-old Italian alto saxophonist who has been turning heads at festivals and concerts overseas. That would be something to hear, but until then Chasing Your Tail should make Savage's growing legion of fans quite happy and help strengthen his reputation as the world's leading soon-to-be-eleven-year-old jazz pianist.
Contact: Savage Records, P.O. Box 35, Francestown, NH 03043. Web site, www.savagerecords.com
Personnel: Matt Savage, piano; John Funkhouser, bass; Steve Silverstein, drums.