All Jazzed Up is the third album by pianist Matt Savage. Nothing too remarkable about that, one must concede — but give the kid a break, he's only nine years old! Matt had been playing piano for all of three years when this date was recorded for an enthusiastic audience at the Deertrees Theatre in Harrison, Maine. There's no way to know whether those people actually believed what they were seeing and hearing, but in case they harbored any doubts the evidence has been safeguarded on this disc. On the one hand, there are many rough edges — Savage is not yet ready to challenge the likes of Oscar Peterson — but on the other, it is truly remarkable how much musical knowledge this precocious preteen with the glasses, wavy brown hair and incandescent smile has absorbed in only three short years. He's not yet in long pants but holding his own with bassist John Funkhouser, former head of Jazz Studies at Manhattanville and Concordia colleges, and drummer Steve Silverstein, a former instructor at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville who has performed in the U.S. and overseas with a who's who of wellknown Jazz artists. Two years ago, when he was seven, Matt was accepted as a private Jazz student at the prestigious New England Conservatory in Boston where he studies piano with Eyran Katsenelenbogen who was tutored by Paul Bley and Ran Blake. Besides playing, Matt wrote four of the seven numbers on All Jazzed Up — the others are Bird's "Scrapple from the Apple," Miles Davis's "Seven Steps to Heaven" and Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train." It's so delightful to hear his obviously nineyearold voice announce that "I'm going to play one of my originals. It's called Nonstop Bebop," followed by an irrepressible giggle. "Bebop" gets the session off to a flying start, with "Scrapple" next on the menu. Matt's "Summer Fever" and "Rebecca's Waltz" (written for his sister) precede "Seven Steps" and "'A' Train" before the trio wraps things up with another of Matt's bristling flagwavers, "All Jazzed Up" (as, he says, "An encore!") The concert spans less than fortyfive minutes, but in Matt's defense it was probably past his bedtime. Before ending the review we should note that a part of the proceeds from each of Matt's recordings is donated to a most worthy cause, that of autism research and development. While one can easily spot the flaws in Matt's technique and use of dynamics, the young man is far more than a novelty act; he's a serious Jazz musician who's bent on making his mark, and the opinion here is that we'll be hearing much more from him as he reaches double figures and continues to mature as a player and a person. Meanwhile, Jazz enthusiasts are encouraged to hear and appreciate a nineyear-old to whom the word "phenomenal" is by no means misapplied.
Contact:Savage Records, P.O. Box 188, Wayland, MA 01778. Web site, www.savagerecords.com
Track Listing: Nonstop Bebop; Scrapple from the Apple; Summer Fever; Rebecca
Personnel: Matt Savage, piano; John Funkhouser, bass; Steve Silverstein, drums.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.