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.



I am still here (in case you were wondering)…..

… and the music hasn’t stopped by any means. While I had a large portion of August set aside for finishing my new recording project Balance and for my domestic projects (which involve paint, drop cloths, various tools and ladders, etc.) I did get grabbed up for several last-minute performances. I do put additional time into my practice / preparation for my gigs, of course, and I planned on bringing new material to the Lewiston NY festival — I used these dates as motivation to get the new music together.


The Lewiston festival was truly first-rate all the way. I played two shows on Saturday 8/23 – one solo acoustic, the other with my trio. In both cases, the listening audiences were wonderful – attentive and supportive. I had more than a few conversations about my music and career on  breaks and after the shows. It was stunning to have an entire town turned into the jazz center of New York state.


My evening show included local jazz legends bassist Wayne Moose and drummer Dan Hull. I felt as if I had played with them both all of my life — great talents and really great guys. I have videos coming out soon — check for updates.

I offer my most sincere thanks to everyone who worked many months to make this really come off. Congratulations on a fantastic festival! My very special thanks to Ron for booking me and introducing me to Wayne and Dan. (FYI – they are members of his trio!)

There will be some updates coming regarding my new solo guitar CD. I’ll post more on that and some other things next time.

Thanks so much!


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)


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 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: – my solo guitar and sideman projects – Matt Richards Group – my duo with flutist Katherine Barbato – my duo with vocalist JayKatz – 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.


Coffee Break