I have another music stumble for you all. It seems today that music discoveries are all too common. Thanks to the millions who share out new musicians, I remain grateful for the tunes. Heading back to my jazz world, I decided to chat with guitarist, Matt Marshak. Catching him right before he began to hit the road again, we talked via Skype about his musical career.
Matt began talking with me at his home in eastern Long Island. He shared with me his beginnings and how music entered his life. “My older brother was a drummer in a band. He was the first to go down the musical path. His band was always rehearsing at the house. That was where I got my first inspiration. I was always fascinated with the guitar and did not pursue it seriously until high school. I started out with rock and roll and blues as the main inspiration for my initial style. Later on the jazz world along with funk and r&b became my genre.”
As a jazz musician, Matt has toured the world. “I have been able to play so many cool venues. I was fortunate that we were Germany at the end of last year and had a fantastic time. It is different over there for newer artists. There is more of a level playing field that allows young artists to show their creative side with no format restriction. You can play your own side of jazz and funk. You can be an artist without any restrictions to show feeling with honesty and with no format or restrains. I love the jazz festivals. I have been doing them for five to six year now. They are always a great experience. Events like the Mallorca Smooth Jazz Festival allow musicians to be free and express [themselves]. You could be playing jazz on an island, vineyard and at so many places all over the country. I would love to play for a more extended period over in Europe and would love to do the West Coast as well.”
I talked about my interview with Jay Beckenstein with Spyro Gyra and his views on the European markets. “Its funny that you should mention Spyro. One of my first shows was opening up for Spyro Gyra. It was my first time in Europe and the venue was like a hockey arena. It was a huge venue with a wide range of ages in the audience. It wasn’t just 40-50+ year olds. There were teenagers and 20 year olds all over. One of the main differences in the music scene in Europe is that there is more competition with pop here in US. European culture really takes an effort to listen to jazz because it’s a listening format and requires people to have a particular ear for it all. Musicians have to be more focused on performance and being an artist and less on commercialism and permeating every aspect of popular culture. Luckily, there is a specific format and a niche, so to speak, with the European jazz scene. We can go to jazz festivals and clubs to build up a nice following that maybe is not as fast as the US. It is less of the American Idol formula and more of a sense that you [have] to work for each handshake as an honest performer.”
Musically, there are challenges that come with the genre. “There were a couple festivals that I had the chance to watch on the side of the stage on the same bill with Larry Carlton which was right around the time that I was beginning to transition into jazz. When you are on your own, you are performing and writing your own music to set out to your own shows. The difficult performances initially started when at festivals sometimes a hybrid show is created with a collective of other bands and musicians backing each other up. I had to learn all of their music and be the support person for those events. I was fortunate that the music was similar, but I wanted to respect the artist and perform them well. That is hard with all that pressure.”
My favorite song of Matt’s is Summerfunk. “That was actually my first single to get radio play.” It is the perfect song for a funky summer. Matt’s licks on the guitar are captivating and addictive. Listeners cannot escape it. Summerfunk gives listeners that feeling of excitement and content. With each groove, the listener can get excited and calm at the same time. I love this song. “I have a pretty diverse range in inspiration going from Wes Montgomery and George Benson. I try to listen to all genres from country and new age with Will Ackerman. I hope to bring bring all those worlds together in the record someday.”
Matt Marshak is an excellent musician and was a pleasure to talk to. He will be on the road traveling all across the country this summer working his musical magic. I suggest you try can catch him in your town and become a fan. It will not be hard to do once you start to hear his guitar playing and the smile that grows on his face as he performs. It is too arduous to pass up. Listen and enjoy folks!