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ears&eyes Records: From Chicago to the World

ears&eyes Records: From Chicago to the World
Jakob Baekgaard By

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The requirement of constant motion, forward motion and creativity. Those are the underlying driving forces, I’d say. I also like diversity. —Matthew Golombisky
Those who feel that jazz has run out of steam, that there is nothing new to say, should encounter bassist and renaissance man, Matthew Golombisky, who runs the Chicago-based label ears&eyes. The name says it all. Golombisky is interested in what is going on around him. He is not only curious about music, but also passionate when it comes to art, movies, design and so much more. However, music is where it all comes together and this year, 2017, marks the 10th anniversary of ears&eyes.

ears&eyes is a label driven by community spirit, enthusiasm and creative generosity. The sense of generosity and enthusiasm also comes through in the following interview where Golombisky tells about the label, the music and the paths that have lead him to where he is today.

All About Jazz: First of all. Could you tell how you got into music and highlight some of the albums that have been important in your own musical journey?

Matthew Golombisky: In the 6th grade, I was to choose music, drama or sports as my extra class, my elective. I chose music and I wanted to play alto sax, but it was too expensive and my dad had an old cornet in the attic. So I started on cornet. In the 8th grade I sat next to a tuba player and we became close friends. He had recently obtained an electric guitar, so of course, we decided to start a band. I think we came up with the band name, "Hykura" (no meaning), before I actually bought an instrument.

Like most kids, I wanted to play drums, but once again, drum kits were too expensive and I already had a guitar and complained of the too many strings. So I saved up and bought an electric bass as a last resort. We met a drummer soon after and started a metal band! I was a big metal head. At first I was into Nirvana, Metallica, Living Colour, KMFDM, Faith No More, Primus, Infectious Grooves, and NIN but later fell in love with Scandinavian metal; sighting some important records would be Opeth's Orchid, Katatonia's Brave Murder Day, October Tide's Rain Without End and In Flames' The Jester Race.

In high school, I dropped the cornet but started playing bass in the school big band and fell in love with jazz music. We played a lot of Count Basie and Duke Ellington charts. I didn't fall in love with jazz because of jazz per se, but because of the freedom it gave me; the requirement of creativity. After getting into walking my own basslines and learning chord/scale theory, I was fascinated that I could play the same song over and over, and play it different every single time, expressing different ideas and/or feelings each time. That, I was in love with; the creative process. My first jazz record was Miles Davis' Volume 1. Later, in college (1997-2001), I came across other albums that became super intriguing to me like Miles Smiles, Davis' My Funny Valentine ('64), A Love Supreme, Giant Steps, Wayne Shorter's Juju, Bitches Brew, and In A Silent Way. Ornette Coleman, his aesthetics and music, especially with Charlie Haden, Don Cherry and Blackwell/Higgins, blew me away. By far, Charlie Haden became my biggest influence and inspiration as a musician! I bought all of the Haden Montreal Tapes immediately after hearing the one with Cherry and Blackwell! I also got heavy into Mingus, Monk, Charles Lloyd, Jim Hall, Brad Mehldau (falling in love again, this time with Larry Grenadier), Brian Blade Fellowship, Drew Gress, Eric Dolphy, Dave Douglas, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Paul Motian, Lee Konitz, Chicago Underground Duo, Sex Mob, Isotope 217, seeing the "new" Wayne Shorter quartet in 2001, and more.

But also very important during this time was the discovery of Steve Reich, Stravinsky, Bartok, Rachmaninoff, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Debussy. I was lucky that even though I was earning a jazz performance degree, thanks to an amazing professor, Dr. Joyce Dorr, my university required not only years of classical music history and theory classes, but a lot of 20th Century Classical music classes as well. Instead of bass lessons, for a year, I also took private Afro-Cuban percussion lessons and got heavy into Cachao, as well as Brasilian bossa nova. And this was in Asheville NC, where I was discovering a lot of new music; my good friend and music cohort, guitarist Sam Macy, is to thank a lot for that.

Sam and I's duo was my very first CD release! I was also lucky that Asheville was a city that loved the arts in general and had quite a number of clubs, cafes and restaurants that wanted live jazz, and paid well for it. Being one of the few contrabassists in the city, I was gigging almost every night of the week and sometimes up to 10 or 11 times a week, making really good money and learning a lot because I was always playing with folks much better and experienced than I was. It was exciting! After college, I moved to New Orleans where I was able to explore new ideas with loads of like-minded musicians, most notably Will Thompson, Quin Kirchner, Matthew McClimon, Robin Boudreaux, Milton Villarrubia, Simon Lott, and where I got to hear (and play with) folks like James Singleton, Tim Green, Ed Petersen, Rob Wagner and Johnny Vidacovich. We'd form groups and would play free for hours on end, forming groups, writing tunes, going on short tours, and really finding out what possibilities there were in our music and between our different backgrounds and personalities.

During this time (2001-2005), jazz/classical-wise, I was getting into the Esbjörn Svensson Trio, Nils Petter Molvaer, Erik Truffaz, Gavin Bryars, Ben Monder, Jim Black, Kornstad Trio, Jan Garbarek, John Hollenbeck, The Bad Plus, Skuli Sverrisson, Hamid Drake, William Parker, Cinematic Orchestra, Tony Malaby, Ken Vandermark, Arvo Pärt, Henryk Gorecki, and Richard Wagner and earning a Master's in composition (classical) under one of the most important professors of mine, Dr. Jerry Sieg. After some years in New Orleans and after Hurricane Katrina, I moved to Chicago which was an incredible experience and that allowed me to try even more things out and in a community of musicians with an audience that was super open to anything new and far out.



AAJ: At this point, you have done and are doing many things: working with films, composing, teaching, engineering, designing, arranging festivals and concerts, playing music and, of course, running a label. Do you find that there is connection between the many different "hats" you wear and have worn? Do the different activities exist separately or feed off each other?

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