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Matt Garrison Jumps up the JazzWeek Chart To #13

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Garrison's debut CD Familiar places is quickly winning over listener's at jazz radio. Charting on 3 of the national jazz radio charts, Jazzweek, CMJ & RMR, Garrison this weeks lands at #13 on the Jazzweek jazz radio chart. A great way to kick off the month of September.We took some time out to get into the mind of this wonderfully talented player and got the opportunity to have him describe his latest release in his own words.

When I was first approached about recording an album, there were three questions that had to be considered. The first one was obviously answering the question, “what do I want to say in my first album as a leader?." The next question to be asked was, “Who is going to play my music?." And the third was “what music should I choose that best describes the mental and emotional state that I currently am in. Lucky for me, I have been subconsciously preparing myself for all of these questions for a long time. Up until this point in my career, I have never had the opportunity to create an entire album consisting of all, or most of my compositions. But the time has arrived and I have put together a program of music and musicians that I feel best describes me and the style of playing and writing that I have crafted over the years.

I have chosen seven compositions for this recording. When I listen to another musicians album, I like to hear them play in different styles within the jazz idiom. Many times, I pick up a modern jazz record and to me, all of the songs have similar traits. i completely respect an artists decision to forge a “vibe" and couple tunes together that fall into the same genre. But that is something that I wanted to avoid when recording my own album. I have been influenced by a wide range of eras of music and a long list of saxophonists. One of the first tenor players that I listened to was Stan Getz. While playing in my high school jazz band, I was picked to be the soloist on the Antonio Carlos Jobim tune “Corcovado." In response to this initial influence, I chose a bossa nova that I wrote entitled “A Thoughtful Attempt." This song is meant to evoke two contrasting feelings and outcomes and is written about situations that I've had with friends and the opposite sex. The song goes through a kind of metamorphosis, starting out in a somber kind of way, which depicts the initial “attempt" at making contact with another person. By the end of the melody, success has been attained and a feeling of worth and hope is achieved.

The next two compositions I took from my “book" sort of go together. They were written during a time in college when I was listening to a lot of bebop and hard bop. Hank Mobley and the Blue Note label have been a big part of my musical upbringing. Equally as influential is Charlie Parker and the Savoy/Dial label. “Try Another Day" is reminiscent of a Blue Note tune to my ears. It's basically a blues but has been made a little more modern by adding a vamp section and re harmonizing the basic blues chord changes. The bebop inspired composition I wrote is called “You'll Know When You See Her." When I finished writing the main melody of this song, all I could think about was the fact that the harmony had similarities with the sound of “standards" from the vaudeville era. In the bebop days, in order to avoid paying royalty fees, musicians used to pen new melodies while using standard chord changes. I feel as though my melody is a bebopish one over these older set of changes. The title also sounded very standard-like. To me, it reminds me of something Irving Berlin or Harry Warren would use for a title. The feeling of this song is meant to depict that moment when you turn around and lay eyes on the woman that is meant to be with you to the end.

I have always loved to play ballads. My two favorite interpreters of ballads are Dexter Gordon and Johnny Hartman. “Left Behind" is one that I wrote a few years back during a time in my life that I was feeling like everyone was moving on without me. People were getting engaged, moving away, and going on tours around the world with other musicians. This is a deceptively gloomy song though, because by the end of the form, a feeling of perseverance occurs making you feel like you can live your life as you want; with, or without others. I still believe in that idea to this day.

“Convergence" is the first composition I've ever written in the time signature of 7/4. It came about while challenging myself to attempt writing a song in this odd meter. At the time, I was listening to a lot of modern tenor players and was noticing the fact that they were starting to shy away from the standard 4/4 time signatures. The title came after the song was complete. The melody meets, or converges in the middle of the song at a pedal point section. After this sort of breakdown effect, and an improvised section, the tune returns to the 7/4 time feel until the end. The title also describes a coming together of different aspects of music like melody, harmony and the idea of tension and release.

Over the last few years, I have played with many different bands and have played many different styles of music that stray outside the realm of jazz. When I first decided to become a full time musician, I never really set out to limit myself to only play jazz. Certainly over the years, I have listened to a wealth of music ranging from 1950's Doo Wop, 1960's Rock and 1970's Motown. The next song I added to the album is called “A Clear Path," and it takes its influence from a more funk sound but encapsulates other forms as well. I like to tell the story about this tune. I was watching a Clint Eastwood movie that Lalo Schifrin scored. It was a western and in one particular scene, a funky bass line was being played. It was in the key of G and I touched my hands to my Wurlitzer piano and out came a bass line of my own. It was similar, but definitely not a plagiarism. After that, I wrote a melody over this bass line and chords that I had come up with earlier. The melody has a jazz influence to it, but still retains a bluesy/funky vibe. The title came very quickly, almost simultaneously to the melody. It refers to the state of mind where you finally see which way you are supposed to go and no obstacle will stop you from reaching your destination.

The last tune I picked is called “Familiar Places." It is one of the first compositions that I ever wrote, where the initial goal was to write for rhythm section and three horns. The tune is meant to make you think of those special spots in the world that make you feel at ease and completely comfortable. For me, some of my favorite familiar places included Rock Harbor in Cape Cod, Lime Rock Park Auto Racing track in Connecticut and my boat on Muscoot Reservoir in New York. Being in these places and remembering all of the great times while there is the main influence of writing a song like this. It is the life experiences you have that are used in order to conjure a feeling within a song. Hopefully, with all of the songs I've created, the listener will think of the feelings that I have, but also relate some of my experiences with theirs.

The musicians, overall, were selected specifically for the music that was chosen. The rhythm section was chosen based on each musicians flexibility and ease of adaptability. Luques Curtis, playing bass, has one of the best beats that I've played with. He is very creative and plays for the moment without sacrificing his role as the base of the music. His brother Zaccai plays piano. I marvel at the wide range of colors he is able to pull from his instrument. Zaccai's sense of drive and swing is a perfect match to the bebop tune and the more modern swing songs. Rodney Green, to my ears, has a complete grasp of the tradition of jazz and uses it as a springboard for his interpretation of modern jazz. His cymbal beat is unrelenting and strong and his accompaniment is interactive without ever intruding on the soloists ideas. Mark Whitfield plays on two tunes, “A Thoughtful Attempt," and “A Clear Path." Mark is another flexible musician who is able to conform to any groove. He plays nylon string guitar on the bossa nova and electric on the funk tune.

The horn section was very easy to pick for me. Bruce Harris plays trumpet and flugelhorn. He is one of my longest collaborators and our phrasing and tone blend beautifully together. His improvising skills never cease to amaze me. With every solo, he always surprises me and plays new and different material with each chorus. He is firmly rooted in the jazz tradition but doesn't ever lean too hard on it. Mike Dease is the trombone player in the group. He is another musician with exceptional talent and creativity. The clarity of sound the Mike gets from his horn matches entirely with my sound and Bruce's. Together, the horns create a uniform sound that doesn't sound like three individuals but one tone. Claudio Roditi is the special guest in the horn section. What better musician to get to play on a Brazilian tune than a trumpet player from Brazil. Claudio's tone lends itself to the complex delicate harmony of “A Thoughtful Attempt" and his knowledge of the bossa nova groove allow him the float in and out of the beat.

The overall idea and concept of this album is melody. This is what I always set out to say when writing and performing original material. I want to share all of these melodies with people and hope that they hold on to them and sing them to themselves long after they listen to the album. The best songs that I always find myself humming or whistling have one thing in common, and that is strong and rememberable melody. I have taken all the influences in my musical life and put them together to create this album.

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