Yes, I am finally back…..

… and I do apologize for my absence. While I abhor excuses, even if they are justifiable, I always feel as if I’m defying belief relating them. However, this time I’d like to briefly explain why I haven’t been posting.

My mother passed away last month. Her health had been slowly declining, beginning about five years ago, and she was in assisted care in a nursing home. She had periodically had concerns with her health that required additional care and a visit to the hospital during that time, but she did not suffer from a terminal disease or condition. To be honest, there were times when I would visit her (which I was able to do several times each week) and come away feeling frustrated and sad — I’d cloister myself away and avoid my front office duties for a few days as a result. Of course, I’d scramble to catch up and get back on track.

While I knew that she was slowly diminishing with each day, I realized how valuable my time was with her and how much each visit meant to both of us. This had a strong effect on how I perceived my own life and the effect I could have on others and I always brought my deepest sense of well-being to each visit with her. Not only did it provide support for her, but it had an amazing effect on the other residents at the facility and on the nursing staff as well. It had a profound effect on me — through bringing that determination to the fore, I felt so wonderful that I was able to be part of her life to the very end. I do owe that insight to my Buddhist practice and the emphasis of placing true value in human life and realizing that value can be created no matter what the situation — it can, indeed, transcend whatever limits we may have thought were in our way.

While I endeavored to keep the business moving along, I have discovered some loose ends — my blog is one of them. I’ll be getting some of the drafts finished and get a regular schedule going. I do have a lot to say, especially when it comes to music, so I better get busy….

In the meantime, here’s something from my trio’s Doyelstown Arts Festival date:



I’ve been invisible long enough………..

…..and have, quite honestly, been focused on expanding my visibility via Twitter, Facebook and most other so-called ‘social networks’. Much to my displeasure it seems to take an inordinate amount of my time, time better spent practicing and getting music together. I know I’ve ranted about the disadvantage of artists being solely responsible for their publicity in a 24/7 manner. While there are quite a lot of active musicians doing just that, they seem to active as promoters more than as musical artists. While publicizing oneself is a real requirement now, it seems time and effort must be spent on assuring that what you are promoting (your music/ your performance) lives up to the hype. Without naming names, that is, too often, not the case. The packaging ends up being much better developed than the contents.

I’m struggling mightily to prevent myself from sliding down that slope. There’s a balance somewhere, an even surface where I don’t always feel pressured to post photos of my breakfast coffee (or tea) each morning…. Old School? Yeah, perhaps, but I am a musician first and I want to be really excellent at that.

My 19yo son commented the other day that there are very few exceptional guitarists under the age of 50 — he noticed that Hendrix was in his 20s when he essentially re-invented not just guitar-playing but modern music. Now, a Hendrix-level artist isn’t going to be a commonality, but given the fact that the artistic doors have been pushed wide by Jimi and so many other kindred spirits (McLaughlin, Coryell, Beck, Johnson, et al) beginning from that time more guitar slingers should be building upon those concepts and ideas. With very few exceptions, in limited ways, they’re not.

It may well be that the business of music has overwhelmed the creation of music – the emphasis is rarely on being a great player but, rather, on marketing. Yes, that is necessary and vital. But, the music needs to grow and evolve and the artists need to do likewise. So few of the young players to day will have a life-long career as they don’t spend the time to develop their artistry and become great musicians who will grow and set the pace for music.

Now, I’m going on and on about one of my favorite issues….. You’d think after three months’ absence I’d have something new…. Oh, here’s a new photo from a recent outdoor event:

From a solo outdoor performance, Spring 2015

From a solo outdoor performance, Spring 2015

(Guitar aficionados: It’s a rare moment with me playing in traditional classical style.)

I’ll be doing this (posting) more often…. with more substance, I promise.


“Going inside the music and searching for possibilities that aren’t immediately noticed.”

I’m not sure if that’s a quotable statement — now that I look at it I am reminded of those kickers that appear in large print between paragraphs in a published interview. The idea behind such journalistic practice is to grab the attention of someone paging through the magazine/paper/publication and get him / her to read the entire article.


This is how I recently described my approach to playing solo guitar – while I always employ a generous amount of improvisation to most of my repertoire I’ve become aware of how I also employ that approach for arranging.

For the very first time I recently arranged one of my non-guitar compositions for solo guitar. The piece, Now That You’ve Been Forgotten, was originally composed for piano and soprano sax using Finale. I voiced the piano chords by feel/sound, not attempting to make them adhere to any predetermined rules or ideas. When I did sit down and begin adapting the piece to the guitar one of the first things I did was define the chords, essentially naming them (i.e., Dm7, Fmajor7b5, etc.). It was immediately apparent that they did not transpose to guitar easily – re-voicing them essentially altered the piece far too much for my taste. At first, I was ready to declare it unplayable on the guitar and just figure it was best-suited to the original arrangement. However, after a minute or two, I began transposing the melody so it sat better on the guitar; then, I dropped harmonies around the melody in the new key. Before the evening was over I had re-interpreted Now That You’ve Been Forgotten for the guitar in much the same way I’ve arranged music by other artists, be it popular, standards or anything else. I am still tweaking my approach with it — especially the improvisational section — but it now exists in two different forms and I am pleased with both. At first, I worried I’d end up altering my original version — but it’s different enough from the solo guitar rendition and it works on its own.

This is a real first for me as I tend to keep my original versions of my compositions intact. They may evolve over time (say, 10 years) after repeated performances, but never did I adapt a piece so early in its life.

Of course, I now want to include it on the still-in-progress recording Balance — at this rate I may have to release two volumes just to get everything out. Or I’ll need to be patient and include what I originally planned while stockpiling the newer pieces for later release.

By the way, you can hear the original along some other non-guitar compositions on ReverbNation:

Until next time….


My sound is… my sound… and that’s good!

I am one of a very select group of guitarists who has NEVER owned a tube amp. It seems that, regardless of the musical style / genre you play, every guitarist has a dream amp and it always has tubes. Not me…..

Given the variety of tube amps on the market one can never assume all tube amps are created equal. If that were the case there would only be one or two companies producing them and all the boutique designs and prices ($1800 for a 20 watt head – no cabinet included) would be considered more than absurd.

Matt's Lab L3 (after the accident)

I, on the other hand, own only transistor amps. My very first amp was a combo model Leslie with a solid state amp/ preamp. I don’t have an aversion toward tube amps. I also don’t have a sound like dry copier paper. Once I wised up and decided I needed something other than an organ cabinet to get a decent guitar sound I did test a multitude of amplification. As it turned out the LAB series amps were being introduced and an L7 (100w, 4X10) caught my ear. I was on a mission to cut back the weight and escape the clumsiness the Leslie burdened me with – twin 12s were my preferred choice and within several days the store received the shipment and I brought home my LAB series L5 (100w, 2X12).

It was around this time that progressive rock and fusion dominated my musical sensibilities – that meant I needed to produce sounds beyond the norm and I needed pedals to carry me on this musical journey. During this time, I have no idea of what my sound was like without effects switched in – a clean sound was of little use to me then. I am pleased to say that the LAB amp pulled me through the 10-pedal pedalboard days and enabled me to gradually craft a superb clean sound.

Lab3 Two LAB series L5s provide some height for the LAB L3

Very simply put, the LABs feel/ sound/ respond like tube amps – you can even push the front end and get distortion. That’s what they were built to do.

I’ll go on about amplifiers further in the next post – stay tuned.






Beginning a New Year with a new post…..

… would seem like a no-brainer, but that’s too easy.

Solo - East Brunswick Public Library

Actually, I did lay low over the holiday season, only checking FaceBook, Twitter, etc. once a day and mostly just hitting LIKE for others’ posts. I felt some sort of burnout taking hold and needed to reset myself – some intensely determined Buddhist chanting has pushed me back into action. While I am steadily getting back on track I must admit I do feel more focused. It’s usually not a problem being a one-person operation and handling everything every day – but repetition both in my own actions and the responses (or consistent lack thereof) I receive from bookers and promoters eventually wears thin.

I am getting some revamping done, mostly with my website (gradual tweaks and mods which may go unnoticed) and also with my playing (!). I’m actually reviewing the published exercises from John McLaughlin‘s This Is How I Do It DVD educational release from a few years ago. He does work up to his signature approach rather carefully, with simple patterns across scales and builds logically into full-fledged improvisations over chord vamps. The charts do provide a good deal on their own. I’ve also glimpsed some excerpts on YouTube. The DVD set costs at least $75.00 online, though actual retail is much higher. I admit to being hesitant about purchasing the package given the price tag (though I have paid more than that for one lesson). Last year, Larry Coryell had suggested I study the music/playing style of Tal Farlow – of course, when Larry recommends something I’ve learned to take his advice… which I did, obtaining the one technique book on Tal along with a four-album CD collection. While I’ve not only listened to Tal during my lifetime I also became acquainted with him and attended a few performances in intimate club settings. Tal was always somewhat modest about his abilities and admitted that he couldn’t always explain in detail the music he had just made. While musical comrade were busy transcribing and parroting solos I tended to listen closely and let the ideas slowly sink in – these would ultimately surface days/weeks/months later during a gig and cascade out of my fingers onto the strings and into the air as music.

My great pursuit, for the time being, is digging deeper into the music to find ways playing through changes. While I’m always looking to expand my single-line improvising, I’m sincerely attempting to apply the same approach to solo guitar with chord forms and variations. As I’m recording my CD project Balance I’m discovering new chordal ideas/harmonies/lines are taking shape as I play. More importantly, I’m hearing things differently, finding new ways to work through progressions that may seem ‘outside’ on paper but sound better and better each time. I’ve always believed you develop and mature in your ability to apply extended harmonic ideas and make them musically appropriate rather than a ‘high-wire circus act’ (Ralph Towner’s words) of calculated virtuosity. A great example is Wayne Shorter (my Buddhist grandfather, by the way) who seems to be capable of playing any note / phrase and make it work in anything. Obviously, I’m over-simplifying that fact – he is an improvisor of the highest order whose ideas and skills have developed over a lifetime.

So I am digging into the technical and theoretical side of music to do some homework and ignite new ideas and possibilities. While I, like most musicians, listen to/experience music on several levels (artistic/technical/theoretical), I try to come away with a grasp of the spirit that went into the performance – the learning issues get ingrained and permit the artist to express his life easily with a high degree of musicality. It’s that life-force that drives it all and tapping into it makes every bit of effort worthwhile.

See you next time.


Several different live scenarios in the past week…..

…. have afforded me the opportunity to get my music out to old and new listeners.

It began on Saturday evening when I teamed up with vocalist JayKatz at the Paris Wine Bar, Philadelphia’s very best jazz lounge. I normally appear here with guitarist Tony Hughes but he wasn’t able to do this date, so Jay was a natural choice. She and I have worked together as a duo, just guitar and voice, for the past year. Our respective schedules have minimized our live dates in recent months so this was a welcome opportunity. I always enjoy performing with her and this night was no exception — we took chances and stretched some tunes and even performed others for the first time. I do look forward to more dates (and hopefully a recording) in 2015.

JayKatz & Matt Richards

Visit our duo page:

The very next day I performed a solo guitar concert at the East Brunswick Public Library in East Brunswick NJ. i had conducted a guitar workshop here about five years ago (which drew about 40 people), so this was a welcome return engagement. The library is a first-rate facility which also houses the local TV station EBTV. While I was concerned, at first, that the sound system was not going to accommodate my guitar, a few careful tweaks of my gear made the sound superb. I drew upon the overall energy and sense of adventure that Jay and I had on the previous night and dug into the music and opened up some new ideas in my usual repertoire. While I always enjoy performing in any format, I think I was more invigorated having two performances back-to-back. As an added bonus, EBTV filmed my entire show and will be sending a copy my way.

Solo - East Brunswick Public Library

Finally, this evening (Thursday, 12/11), I performed with my good friend Howard Miller and his group for our monthly feature of casual jazz at the Abington Presbyterian Church Parish Hall in Abington PA. This is a loose aggregation that’s been playing more than three years on a monthly basis. It’s a pleasure to get together and work with these players as it’s one of the few times I am a sideman. I play electric guitar and, on occasion, fretless glissentar. The group has developed an unique identity and includes instrumentation such as valve trombone, tenor & alto saxes, vibes, piano, bass and drums. We also feature guest vocalists such as JayKatz and Gerri Oliver. And we’ve earned a consistent, engaged following that makes each date a pleasure.

Three performances within a week that have allowed me to perform in three different aspects of my playing. The balance of the month is a bit quiet as far as public performances — this will enable to finish my CD project Balance and clear out the backlog of recorded tracks and compositional projects sitting on that hard drive in my desktop……

Until next time….


How time flies……

…. and when it takes off it becomes impossible to catch up.

Matt preforms solo – 12/7/14 – East Bruswick NJ

My absence from posting for a while had valid reasons. First and foremost, my mother was admitted to the hospital with some sort of viral infection that was of great concern given her age. Within hours, as the treatments were being formulated planned, the virus dissipated, her fever broke and she began to eat again and regain her strength and alertness. She is back at her senior residence and, though there is extra care in place, she is showing amazing actual proof of her resilience. While I was confident that her care was the very best possible, the situation weighed on my mind and my ability to concentrate on my usual ‘front office’ duties.

Of course, the ‘front office’ can only function when everything (including me) is working as it should be. A few months ago I became aware of a website based in Russia that was streaming/ offering for free download the music from my videos. Google alerts sent me an update that my name and the word ‘guitar’ were being promoted on the world-wide web. As I didn’t post this or engage in any direct action for this to appear I clicked on the link. An entire website opened before me with a myriad of free music downloads (in three resolutions no less). It turns out someone grabbed the audio tracks for most of my video files, re-engineered them in low, medium and high resolution (!) and posted them for free download. I traced the website owner back to an email address and sent a terse message. He/she/it replied in Russian which translated into ‘Can you prove you own them?’ My Google-translated reply was ‘Yes – I have legal documents’ gained a reply to the effect of ‘I can take some down’. I did reply with an extensive list — to this day they are still out there. Truth be told, I do not make a lot of money from downloads so I am losing very little. Also, the audio from the videos is not the best quality to begin with. After consideration, I decided it wasn’t worth hassling via Google Translate and figured it could actually expand my visibility. So the pirated tracks remain….

Just about two weeks ago I decided to upgrade my website with some tweaks and new photos, etc. Imagine my surprise when I discovered pages missing — I clicked on links to pages I had installed months before only to find they no longer existed! Small wonder my booking efforts were coming up short. I suspect now that the site was hacked, links to videos grabbed and the pages deleted. Why? How in heck can I know? Perhaps it’s the Mount Everest syndrome (because someone can do it and it’s there). I immediately changed my passwords and uploaded my backups, then did the intended tweaking to bring things up to speed.

Now website checking is a scheduled event, like the watchman doing rounds. I did issue an apology via the website and in all follow-ups to bookers and festival programmers.

Of course, the sessions for my solo recording project Balance continue, albeit with a freeform schedule. In fact, this is not a bad thing — my usual exaggerated attention to every detail that takes place right after the recording session is buffered and minimized. After two or three weeks I don’t recall every scratch and squeak and buzzed note that stood out at the time of the recording. So far, I am very pleased with the tracks that are in the (virtual) can.

Well, there is more to come — in fact, I’ll post again in a few days to update everyone on some gigs, new material and other things. So sorry to be away for a while — I only compose and post something when I am focused and want to communicate. I never rave and rant……

Thanks! I’ll be back soon.