Remembering Larry Coryell (pt.1)


I vividly recall my weekly trips to the Franklin Music store while in high school and my obsessive journey through practically every LP bin in the store. I wasn’t necessarily an open-minded teen, looking for new and exciting music forms (though, in retrospect, it seems I was). Still under the influence of popular music (which, at that time, mixed rock, Motown, folk, country and full-fledged pop musics into one perpetual playlist) I used the covers of the LPs to educate myself. I knew about rock and folk music, of course, but learned of country artists, jazz artists, classical orchestras and composers, Broadway shows, all from studying those LP covers.

By this time I was also into the guitar – any guitar, any style, any level of playing. I was most immediately drawn to cover shots with guitars pictured, my teen-aged imagination just piqued by the music that was lurking on that vinyl disc. I wasn’t much of a guitarist at that time – with literally no guitar instruction available other than a folk-singing father of a younger friend, I was fumbling along on my own, snatching bits of ideas from TV variety shows, where popular groups would lip-sync their latest hit. So, it was with this fascination-driven mentality that I encountered Larry Coryell’s Offering album.

I’m not sure I can express exactly what drew me to that record – the cover is quite artistic, of course, but there was something about this guy holding this immense guitar that hinted at new music, an unique experience. He didn’t have the physical demeanor of Barney Kessell or Herb Ellis, wasn’t sporting the suit-and-tie look still associated with a preconception of jazz. He had bushy hair, giant glasses and a fantastic guitar. The back cover was even more convincing – the quintet didn’t look that different from guys I was hanging around with at school, albeit a bit older. I could imagine sitting there with them just looking cool.

The list price for Vanguard LPs was $3.49 that week, which was beyond my high school budget (circa 1969). But I persevered – upon each return visit to the store I checked the sale banners – various labels had weekly specials when the price would drop by $1. Each week I checked that the record was still in the bin. Three weeks passed – my patience was rewarded when that banner touted all Vanguard LPs for $2.49! I wasted no time in dashing to that bin, grabbing the record, pulling those three $1 bills out of my wallet and buying Offering.

My parents were very tolerant with my musical obsessions. In the era before earbuds and headphones, they had to be tolerant with my often redundant listening habits. This time it went even further. Upon returning home, I rushed to the venerable Fisher stereo system, placed the LP onto the turntable and was astonished by what I heard. The very first track, Foreplay, was unlike any music I ever heard. I played the track six times, all the while running around the dining room, calling out superlatives and exclamatories. When I finally calmed down my mother walks into the room and asks “Is the whole record just that one song, over and over?” I, of course, replied with more superlatives and impassioned exclamations.

I literally had to not listen to the remainder of the record until the next day and the artistic knock-out punches continued. This was group of musicians creating something exciting on many levels, opening new doors into musical expression. For me, it was truly a turning point –  I had a new take on music and new determination to play music like this. The music of the rock and pop idols had nothing close to this – I had to learn to play like this.

Back in the LP days, to learn a song/solo/guitar part you played the vinyl LP over and over again, cuing the needle to the spot as many times as needed. I’m sure those repetitions clocked into three figures as I attempted to figure Larry’s solos out by ear. I had no idea where to begin. After wearing out the first copy of Offering and procuring a second, I realized it was time to find a teacher – this was jazz, after all, and I was in totally uncharted territory (for me). I asked friends who had taken lessons if their teacher was accepting new students. He wasn’t – but he supplied two names: Pat Martino and Tom Giacabetti. As it turned out, Pat was out on tour for several weeks, Tom wasn’t. I studied with Tom for five years and still employ his lessons today.

I also met Larry Coryell some months later…..

More to come



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.






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!


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.



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.


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:


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.


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.


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.



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:

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.

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.