Music means different things to different people.

Reading Terminal Market 5/11/14

I recently recalled an episode from several years ago — a man and woman came to one of my performances and purchased a CD afterward. They related that they had my previous CD release and the woman added “We love listening to your music during dinner”. My knee-jerk reaction was to respond by snatching their recent purchase from their hands and tell them how my valuable performance, stunning technique and sublime arrangements weren’t mere backdrop music to accompany meatloaf and potatoes. However, from many hours of Buddhist chanting I was able to draw upon a higher instinct and realize that they were, indeed, complimenting me. They weren’t heavy-duty guitar aficionados; neither one played guitar at any level. Yet, they felt something when they listened to my playing and for them, to listen while they dined was, indeed, a special thing. I told them how delighted I was that they enjoyed my music and I really meant it. This was a major turning point for me as an artist and as a human being.

Reading Terminal Market 5/11/14 (#2)

I’ve performed in a broad range of settings during the past month — from the very laid-back Paris Wine Bar, to the boisterous Reading Terminal Market, to two winery tasting rooms, to a parking lot during a farmers’ market. In each setting I was able to bring the music to different people, few of whom would actually appear in every one of these venues. I don’t do this range of venues out of desperation or necessity — I realize I am communicating my musical performance to a wider variety of listeners than I could if I played only one type of venue. And while it’s a good thing for me (obviously) to broaden my exposure and fanbase, it also serves the ‘bigger picture’ for performing artists — by making people aware of music being played in my unique way I call attention to other solo instrumentalists and widen our market a bit more.

I also feel that I’ve become a more focused player and I am achieving a bit of a long-term career goal — having a recognizable style no matter what setting I play in. Whether it’s with Tony Hughes in our guitar duo or JayKatz in our guitar/voice duo or with the Philly Blues Kings, I am beginning to sound like myself. I do play appropriately for whatever setting I’m in and never ignore the music in order to gratify my ego. That’s part of my style, after all…..

Reading Terminal Market 5/11/14 (#3)

Matt

It’s about the music – it’s all good!

P1000689 Salt Lake City Airport

It has been a while since I last sat down and put thoughts to paper (virtually, at least). I avoid doing journal-like accounts of my days as that takes time out of whatever I’m doing. While I do have my BA in Journalism (!) if I try chronicling each day I get wrapped up in grammar, phrasing, sentence flow, etc. and spend too much time on composing material that satisfies the writer aspect of my life. If progress for that day was less than instantly spectacular I tend to get a bit sour in my accounts (which shoves me into cynicism, which tends to stick around). Too frequently I don’t see immediate benefits from my promo/calls/emails/EPKs – even my practicing – but the results are apparent later (days/weeks/even months). If I let myself get dragged down with a muddy attitude I lose my focus and miss opportunities and deadlines. And, as anyone involved in artistic pursuits can tell you, that attitude can shut down any sort of progress that may be underway.

One thing that tends to operate a bit under the radar (at least for me) are the various pages I am involved with on ReverbNation.com. I discovered RN years ago, primarily to utilize their easy-to-use widget audio player. Their capabilities have expanded over the ensuing years and thousands of artists and fans put these functions to good use. They do tend to focus most of their promotional and booking endeavors on popular markets (as do most of these sort of service-related sites), but they are out there and that widget audio player is still easy to use.

Here’s a listing of the current RN pages I’m part of:

http://www.reverbnation.com/mattrichards – my solo guitar and sideman projects

http://www.reverbnation.com/mattrichardstrio – Matt Richards Group

http://www.reverbnation.com/mattrichardsduo – my duo with flutist Katherine Barbato

http://www.reverbnation.com/jaykatzmattrichardsduo – my duo with vocalist JayKatz

http://www.reverbnation.com/mattrichmusic – my composition / soundtrack work

The composition page is probably new to most listeners. This is work I’ve been involved with for the past year via my use of Finale. The music falls outside of my usual material — in fact, it’s not intended to be performed live. I have orchestrated older pieces of mine and composed completely new works. While I may incorporate some Finale orchestration in my recordings in the future I’m primarily just exercising my composing and arranging skills. I do entertain the idea of doing soundtracks with the music, but it’s a whole new thing for me. (I’m a better guitarist than  composer right now….)

View from the sky above Salt Lake City airport.

View from the sky above Salt Lake City airport.

On other fronts, I’m working on the new solo recording along with performances with JayKatz, Howard Miller, Tony Hughes and Katherine Barbato (who’s back in town now).

I’ll have more updates soon, as well as some guitar/music-oriented postings. It’s time to do the late-night promo push.

See you all soon.

Matt

Coffee Break

 

 

Winter NAMM came and went….

…. and, along with my son, so did I.

The Winter NAMM Show is overwhelming — the very first time you go it will cause dizziness and severely sore feet. Then there’s confusion, disorientation and a feeling of ‘what am I doing over here when I should be over there?’ First and foremost it’s a music industry trade show, intended as a promotional endeavor for hundreds of companies that are involved in businesses relating to music. For the musicians it offers opportunities to connect with companies for endorsements, perform in both formal and informal settings for a captive professional audience and to establish the fact that you are someone worth noticing. (The NAMM Show is closed to the general public — you must have some connection/affiliation with a professional company/vendor to even walk through the doors.)

Playing a Godin Montreal.

NAMM14GGa

While I did meet up with acquaintances and make new friends, this show was hampered by the fact that our hotel (promoted as conveniently located to the convention center) was a 35-minute bus ride away that required a 15 minute walk to the bus stop and between a 30 – 50 minute wait for the bus. Taxi service was at a premium requiring up to 40 minutes wait and a hefty fare. Normally, the hotel is within convenient walking distance to the convention center and I’ve never needed a rental car. But, all things considered, we made the most of the trip, and I did meet Pat Quilter (whose transistor amps are at least as good as my favorite vintage brand (Lab by Moog)) as well as some other nice folks. The details have settled in as the weeks have passed. Rather than rant on here, I’ll get to some timely news.

I’ll be performing in my first-ever guitar/vocal duo with the incomparable JayKatz beginning in April. Actually, Jay will join me in a 2-guitar/bass/voice quartet in March at the superb restaurant August Moon. This project is also a first for me — the quartet is a drummerless group and is assembled from my duos. This is the first time we’re all playing together at the same time. In addition to JayKatz, this group includes Tony Hughes on guitar and Nick Krolak on bass.

I’ve been more involved in studio production work, most immediately in mix/edit/master work with duo recordings with Jay, and with solo recordings for my next release Balance. I do go deep when I’m involved with any recording work and 4 to 6 hours in the real world seems like 2 hours in studio time. Of course, I spend a serious amount of time sweating over every note on playbacks — I am excessively critical and I always need to give myself some space after any recording session. So, this means results of the solo sessions are pending…. I will say that I really like ribbon mics now……

I’m working with almost five hours of sleep so I believe I’ll close this posting and come back with a new one when I’ve rested a bit more. Let me offer one of my famous / notorious window shots from my trip to CA. This is just outside Salt Lake City UT.

View from Salt Lake City airport.

View from Salt Lake City airspace.

Peace.

Matt

2014 is now here…..

… and part of me wonders where 2013 went and why it went there so quickly.

To be honest, I am not lamenting the year gone by in any way — I do wish (as I always seem to do) that I was busier in more public ways (shows/performances/press). I carry a new-found determination to avoid any sort of lethargy or fatalistic feelings when I’m doing my front office work (pitching/promoting/booking). With the demise of a few performing opportunities, either with the closing of venues or the elimination of music programs in established settings, it’s all too easy to throw my hands up and start throwing the blame around. But, as I’ve found out in the past, once you go down that negative slope you drag everything along with you — I’ve done enough of this in days past to know I won’t go there ever again. (My Buddhist practice does make the difference!)

I did mention vocalist Jay Katz in a previous post along with a number of other upcoming projects. In addition to working up some tunes with her, she was most helpful in getting the lyrical phrasing in my composition How Many Times Will We Say Goodbye? together. If you’ve heard me perform during the past year you may recall my performing an original piece called Ballad, which is exactly that, a ballad. I was inspired to put lyrics to it and, since I could never sing the melody I had written, I needed expertise. I passed the chart along to Jay and not only did she tweak the melody to fit the lyrics, she actually recorded a voice/piano demo and sent it back via email at 1:30am! We did get some recording time in shortly afterward and focused on just voice and guitar in a duo. I am looking forward to performing with her soon. She will be featured on Thursday 1/16 with Howard Miller and Friends (including me) at Abington Presbyterian Church Parish Hall. Visit me on FaceBook (http://FaceBook.com/MattRichardsguitar) for specifics on the show.

Vocalist Jay Katz

Vocalist Jay Katz

I finally recorded solo guitar performances for my long-delayed solo album Balance. I had been plagued by electrical ‘gremlins’ when I attempted to set up my home studio. I’d have all sorts of squiggles and buzzes and even AM radio in the signal path no matter how I attempted to filter things. I finally devised a way to record without plugging into an outlet. It seems to have worked! Now, I just need to like what I played…..

For the guitar-oriented readers: I recently followed the advice of my long-time friend and guitar-physician extraordinaire Jack Romano regarding tuning angst with the 3rd string on my LaPatrie cutaway classical – a wound G string! It worked! I’ve tried both steel-wound (GHS) and nylon-wound (Savarez) and they both work perfectly. No more compromises in high positions! I’ll eventually settle on one and let everyone know.

I am getting ready to head off to CA for the Winter NAMM Show — I’ll check in with my thoughts about this music-trade-show adventure next time.

Time to practice!

Thanks.

Matt

 

There were a lot of things going on…..

…. and, it seems, I was in the midst of it all, for a change. I have been recounting my fortune since the last posting and the best description is wide-ranging. I had a fantastic solo date during the Jazz By Night In Media celebration that takes over Media PA at this time each year — not only did I really dig deeply into some fantastic inspiration and play well but I had the opportunity to head out after ward and visit with some ‘fellow’ jazz artists, most notably Phyllis Chapell (Okay, she’s not exactly a fellow in the strict sense) and her duo partner Steve Jewett. It was almost like being in NYC and getting to hang with some of the legends after your gig. Phyllis is in a class by herself — I arrived to her singing Quizas Quizas Quizas in both English and Spanish and did get to hang and talk shop (and other topics) before I realized how tired I was. Wonderful evening, worth the trip each and every year.

Matt's 1975 Hagstrom Swede

Hagstrom Swede at rest

Arlyn Wolters

Arlyn Wolters at work

I worked up a duo rendition of Kate Bush’s Man With The Child In His Eyes with vocalist Arlyn Wolters for a Buddhist event — was I nervous? Yes — Kate Bush is one of the true greats in every way and when Arlyn and I proposed the idea I actually dove into it purely by instinct (or, possibly, blind idealism) and after reviewing several songs I suggested Man which met her instant approval. Then, I listened to two different versions by Ms. Bush herself and wondered ‘What was I thinking?’ Kate’s music is so personal, often intimate, and almost defies you to try and play it without sounding mediocre. I brought my trusty Lowden S27FC out and struck a balance between piano and violins which suited Arlyn’s amazing vocal. I got chills when she sang the first note – no lie! Believe it or not, I appreciate Kate Bush even more now.

Guitar Trio at Woodmere Museum

Left to right: Frank Butrey, Matt Richards, Richard Tucker

I did mention the guitar trio in my previous post — it was everything it could have been and even a bit more. Frank Butrey, Rich Tucker and I played together like old friends from the very first note and the rhythm section of Mark Johnson, Jeff Johnson and Cedric Napolean were top notch without a doubt. The show was sold out and we received a standing ovation. Despite all of my multi-guitar projects form previous years this was the first jazz guitar trio I’ve ever been part of and I am ready for more. And so are Frank and Rich. Stay tuned….

I’ve also had the opportunity to work with jazz vocalist Jay Katz. After hearing her sing the blues at a local session in October (where she modestly got up and told us she was ‘new here’ before knocking out everyone in attendance with her Summertime) we connected to discuss music and even attempted a Skype rehearsal (which went badly – the signal would freeze or skip). Jay joined my guitar duo with Tony Hughes for a great set of music. Videos are making their way onto YouTube and are included on my channel.

I will be joining both Arlyn and Jay in duos, each with a somewhat different focus. In years gone by, I usually avoided collaborating with vocalists – for one thing, I wasn’t that good and couldn’t truly accompany someone other than strumming chords blandly behind them. Additionally, there were a multitude of singers who characterized their part of the performance by requesting me to ‘nod when you want me to come in’. Both Arlyn and Jay are the real deal, musicians whose instrument is the voice, who know music and will make a duo something unique, exciting and very musical (which is the way I want it to be).

Getting long-winded, especially before dinner. I’ll have food and wine and I’ll be back.

Peace.

Matt

I always say ‘I wish I was busier’…

… when it comes to my musical pursuits. I just reviewed the past two months and realized I have covered a lot of musical territory. Most interesting was a solo classical guitar date for a private event in the beautiful Rodin Museum in Philadelphia. First off, I am not a classical guitarist — I’ve used classical material to develop my fingerstyle playing technique and have booked several short dates in the past, performing the short pieces by Carulli, Giuliani, DeVisee. This date was three hours and I practiced classical pieces exclusively for the entire week before the gig. Additionally, I listened only to Xuefei Yang‘s music in the car. It worked! The gig was a success, the guests took the time to compliment me (a rarity on most private events) and I felt truly satisfied.

The experience resulted in my coming back to my usual repertoire with a different perspective. I noticed details, found new improvisational ideas and even started adjusting my playing technique with the old tunes as well as the newer material. My sound on the classical-style guitar is so much better now, which is a serious benefit in both the short- and long-term.

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Matt at World Cafe Live

World Cafe Live

Prior to this, I did get the Group out in public at the Arts In The Park festival in Eastampton NJ in September. It was a one-set show and it went by too fast – we were the first group, starting at 11:30 which may have been too early. We had a transient audience of early arrivals who wanted to check out the entire grounds while we were engaged in our musical excursions. I was pleased to have Steve Beskrone on bass once again along with my long-standing musical compatriot Adrian Valosin on drums. My son Matthew captured the set on video (though he kept shuffling around as those early folks passed through which impacted the cinematic quality of the vids). It was a powerful set of music with the shortest but most highly energized version of Tin Tin Deo we’ve ever done. If I can boast a bit: it was the best live sound I’ve ever had! The videos are on my YouTube page: http://YouTube.com/mattrichardsmusic.

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Tony Hughes and I returned as a duo to the Paris Wine Bar, our favorite and most wonderful jazz lounge. (I am glad I had the chance to see Bevin before she soared off to the far far north — we played our last set of the night just for her.) We’ve re-determined to record our pairing ASAP.

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I’ve been serenading the early Saturday (9am) shoppers at the Ambler Farmers’ Market since the Summer. Everyone involved with this weekly event has been so gracious and accommodating. Even though the last two dates started on the cold side, I enjoyed being part of this community’s efforts.

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Matt with his Overdrive II pedal

Matt with his Overdrive II pedal

Coming up – solo guitar for Jazz By Night In Media; three guitars at the Woodmere Museum; a guitar/vocal duet of the music of Kate Bush with Arlyn Wolters; further adventures with Howard Miller & Friends and more…..!

It’s late. Stay warm.

Matt

 

Guitar things…

…. are on my mind. And it’s been a while since I posted.

My apologies.

In the midst of preparing for a trio date in September along with the frequent farmers’ market appearances, I haven’t had the focus to put my thoughts down in printed form. Really! Then, I received a late-night email regarding a private event desiring classical guitar — three hours of classical guitar. Of course, the fee was appropriate — more importantly, I saw it as an opportunity to immerse myself in a genre that I’ve intermittently tip-toed into. Between four to six hours of practicing with charts was both a struggle and a benefit, especially where my technique is concerned. The gig went great, hosted at the Rodin Museum in Philly (which has the ultimate cathedral-like room ambiance for recording solo acoustic guitar).

Oh yes, the Matt Richards Group re-appeared last month for the Arts In The Park festival in Burlington County NJ. With bassist Steve Beskrone and drummer Adrian Valosin joining me for a somewhat too early 11am spot, we hit it hard and lived up to the power jazz trio moniker. I had the best sound I’ve ever had on a live gig (’75 Hagstrom Swede, ’80s Lab L3 amp) and, thanks to my son Matthew, there is footage which now resides on YouTube and Fandalism:

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE1D2FC5955543F40

http://fandalism.com/mattrich

I had been a bit slow to post on Fandalism but once I did it’s become meteoric, with viewers from all over the world and a flame (meaning my videos are hot! — just sayin’).

Also, I finally posted the late Spring appearance from Cafe Improv in Princeton NJ — my latest rendition of I Shot The Sheriff. Interestingly, it was on this locally broadcast program several years ago when I first played a spontaneous solo version of that very tune. I actually engage in a bit of two-handed fretboard introductory adventuring that turned out pretty decent.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04EjcXow7zs

I’ve also been staying up late and composing with my wonderful Finale program — really falling for violins in the process. I am working up several backing tracks for guitar features as well as stand-alone pieces. My wife is encouraging me to investigate soundtrack work after hearing the finished products. A distinct possibility…..

Well, I’m getting more literary inspiration but my circadian rhythms are demanding sleep. Here’s a quick shot from the Cafe Improv date:

Matt at Cafe Improv 5/25/13

Thanks for stopping by. See you next time. Stay well.

Matt