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Matt Shulman: The Next Big Thing

By Published: June 28, 2007
People who I have seen use it do it, and it is sometimes almost gimmicky, but I have really taken to it and approached it by using it as an accompaniment. Every time I use it, it is a real chord. You can analyze it in the structure of a chord progression, and it is a real chord that I am applying. It is pretty cool and fun. It has expanded my whole approach—I didn't want to play a regular single trumpet line; they are deeper now because I have this dual approach. I am definitely multi-dimensional now whereas I used to be sort of one-dimensional as a trumpet player.

AAJ: That is the natural progression and evolution of an artist. It is a great technique and a distinctive sound. How did you develop the ShulmanSystem for the trumpet? And for anyone unfamiliar with it, what exactly is it?

MS: The ShulmanSystem is essentially a device that I developed to create better posture, better breathing and less tension in the trumpeter and ultimately a more stable approach to the instrument. It is holding the trumpet in place for the player so he or she doesn't have to use their body tension and match the trumpet with their lips, like some trumpet players do and cut off the tone. It is an ergonomic approach to the trumpet.

A few things contributed to its creation. I played with the great pianist Kenny Werner, who just released a great record, Lawn Chair Society (Blue Note, 2007). He wrote a book that really made a lot of waves throughout the music world called Effortless Mastery (Jamey Aebersold, 1996). It is like the title implies—it is about becoming a master of your instrument and its music by applying the law of least effort. Through finding a very relaxed, centered space and working from there.

I was really getting into that while playing with him. I was on tour with the band and I did a lot of one-nighters, which can be tiring and challenging. I was seeing a woman at the time that had some experience with the Alexander Technique; so that, along with Kenny Werner's approach and the normal obstacles associated with playing the trumpet, all came together. So I decided to invent something in which to approach the trumpet in this way. I went into my father's woodshop in Vermont and told him that I had this idea. The first prototype looked pretty weird, but it worked! I got pretty excited and invested some time and energy into developing and refining it; and eventually patenting it. Word has spread throughout the trumpet community because it is the only item of its kind.

I am signed to Jaggo Records. It is a great label, it is a major independent label, it is independently owned but they distribute with major label distributions like Universal Music Group. They have great backing and great major label executive experience, it is really exciting. Now I am focusing full time on my recording and performing career.

AAJ: I think that is fantastic. What a wonderful contribution to the world of musicians.

MS: I think it well help a lot of people. I would love to market it to students. Right now it is used by experienced professionals and a few serious students here and there. I think that it can really work well as a beginner's tool, to get trumpeters off on the right foot.

AAJ: Absolutely, there are a lot of possibilities to promote it to various music programs.

MS: Yes it is very exciting. It is all just about getting more music out there. I invented it so that you can make more music, so that you can transcend the instrument.

AAJ: The New York Times has called you the voice of the new emerging jazz generation. Do you feel that way? There is definitely credence to this with the contribution that you are making with your invention, and the new sound that you are presenting through your music.

MS: You know what? Yes, that does resonate with me, for sure. It is interesting as an artist. How self-aware are we? We are doing our art and we are doing what feels right. We are out there doing our best to resonate on a high frequency and bring this music that we feel is important to people. Some people are able to step back and say, "Who am I? What do I look like? What do I appear like to the public?

I am able to do that, to step back and ask those questions. I can understand people telling me that my music is new; there are not many people doing multiphonics. I am doing this thing as a serious jazz trumpet player and I am also singing and have singer/songwriter influences, and alternative rock influences. I feel like it is sort of a Nu movement in jazz. Like The Bad Plus; they are my generation, I have played with a couple of those guys and they are my buddies. We all sort of came up together here in New York. It is an approach where we are taking all those early pop influences, and what is really happening today—the real emotional impulse of now and incorporating it with jazz.

So I feel that yes, I am doing it in a different way. I feel that I am just beginning to rediscover that for myself. This record, So It Goes is great. I also have a lot of new material for the next record which will be even more in that direction.

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