Matt Savage, age 27, has had a remarkable 18-year professional career as a jazz musician, bandleader and composer, performing with ensembles of different size and as a solo pianist. He’s played with some of the biggest names in jazz since first labeled a “jazz prodigy” at age 8 – the same year he met and played piano for Dave Brubeck. Matt has performed (on stage and in jam sessions) with artists such as Chick Corea, the Ellington All Stars, Chaka Khan, Wynton Marsalis, BobbyWatson, Clark Terry, Jimmy Heath, Jason Moran, Arturo O’Farrill, John Pizzarelli, Joshua Redman, Terri Lyne Carrington, Jon Faddis, Jerry Bergonzi, Donny McCaslin and the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra. Matt’s encounters with these jazz greats have always resulted in praise. Saxophonist Bobby Watson said it well after he first performed with Matt (age 11) in Kansas City. “It’s not so much that he was a virtuoso; he had chops, but he also had direction and he had language. Where did that come from? . . . I knew it wasn’t a pretend thing, that he was the real thing and he’d be in music for the rest of his life.”
Along the way, Matt’s talent has taken him beyond the jazz world. In 2015 alone, he performed with Stephen Stills, NeilYoung and Shawn Colvin at a benefit concert at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. He ended that year performing with SteveEarle and Jackson Browne in New York City.
Savage was just 11 when he debuted at New York City’s famed Blue Note. The following year he debuted at Birdland. Since then, Matt has toured worldwide, performing at such additional venues as The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Bohemian Caverns, The Town Hall, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Scullers, the Jazz Standard, Smalls Jazz Club, the Iridium, the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, Heineken Jazzaldia (Spain), the Costa Rica International Jazz Festival, the International VSA Arts Festival, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, the Ottawa International Jazz Festival, the New Orleans Jazz Festival, the Earshot Jazz Festival, Japan, Curacao, Aruba and for the president of Singapore. Matt Savage has performed at popular venues throughout North America, with locations ranging from Los Angeles, Albuquerque, and Vancouver to Canada’s Yukon, where he recently did a major interview with CBC Radio, Canada’s national public radio broadcaster. And in 2018, Matt did an Asia tour, which took him to India, Japan, and three cities in China.
As a composer, Savage has had great success. In 2014, Matt scored, arranged and recorded the music for a full-length documentary film entitled Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story. The movie chronicles the story of the late alto saxophonist Frank Morgan’s troubled life and eventual redemption. In addition to jazz, Matt writes and performs classical music. In 2014, he premiered in New York his own Piano Sonata No. 1 and 24 Preludes. Almost all the songs on Matt’s albums are original compositions, several of which have been used in short documentaries, on web sites, in school music curricula and in government educational materials. Savage consistently garners recognition through ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Awards, ASCAP Plus Awards and the International Songwriting Competition. He scores music for ensembles of all size and instrumentation, including big band.
Matt’s thirteenth and latest recording project is the Matt Savage Groove Experiment’s debut EP, Splash Variations, which was released on December 7, 2018. This new band has an exciting and funky sound, with about half of the tunes being instrumental and half being vocal. Five brand-new originals are included on the album, as well as one “funkified” jazz standard – “All the Things You Are” (Kern/Hammerstein). The centerpiece of the album is the funk medley of “#SPLASH” and “Splash in G Major,” but there are also many other moments with a greater emphasis on jazz solos.
Splash Variations was accompanied by a CD release tour in early 2019.
Matt has twelve previous albums to his name. Matt Savage: Piano Voyages is a 2016 solo piano album; this album was accompanied by a tour on both coasts. Mixed and mastered by Grammy-nominated Jonathan Wyner, this exploratory solo release includes several classic jazz standards in addition to Matt’s originals. One of those is Herbie Hancock’s “MaidenVoyage,” from which Piano Voyages takes its title.
Erena Terakubo, a young star from Japan, plays on one song as well. Piano Voyages was preceded by a live-in Japan duo album under bassist Shota Ishikawa’s leadership, It’s My Request: Live at Bar Request
(2016). About three years prior to Piano Voyages, A Bigger Celebration (2013; with Jerry Bergonzi, Bruce
Gertz, Richie Barshay and Mark Zaleski) and A Live Celebration: Kobe, Japan (2014; with Shota Ishikawa and Tatsuhiko Takeda) were released as companion albums.
Welcome Home (2010), Savage’s ninth album, received critical acclaim upon its release. This CD furthered Matt’s experimentation, reflecting the cycles of country life and the day-to-night rhythms of a metropolitan city through trio, quartet and quintet combinations. All About Jazz said “…this is Savage’s album all the way, as he not only plays with a maturity well beyond his years but wrote and arranged every number…” CADENCE Magazine praised “…hints of Aaron Copland and Pat Metheny done in a piano trio setting that shows how hard-swinging a player Savage is.” Welcome Home was a quintet collaboration with Bobby Watson on alto saxophone, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Joris Teepe on bass and Peter Retzlaff on drums; it also contained various trio configurations with John Funkhouser on bass and Yoron Israel on drums. The album reached #18 on the JazzWeek radio charts, #9 on Roots Music Report and #3 on CMJ.
Leading up to Welcome Home were two albums of note: Quantum Leap (2006) and Hot Ticket: Live in Boston(2008). An acclaimed studio album, Quantum Leap, marked the Matt Savage Trio’s first record to receive worldwide distribution via Palmetto Records (MRI/RED). The album reached the Top 25 on the JazzWeek charts and received airplay on Jazz stations throughout the country. Hot Ticket: Live in Boston followed this success and has been Matt’s most successful live album to date. His first recording with different sidemen, Dave Robaire on bass and Joe Saylor on drums, Hot Ticket captured a special moment in time. "Jazz prodigy makes ‘Leap’ to maturity," stated the Boston Herald. The recording revealed the ongoing evolution of an exceptional artist, who continues to have vision and technique beyond his years as a composer and musician.
Matt has traveled at an astonishing pace from life on a farm to professional composer and musician. His early years brought a unique set of challenges. At the age of three, Matt could not tolerate music or sounds in general, resulting in a diagnosis of Pervasive Development Disorder, a high-functioning type of Autism. For the next four years his parents immersed him in intensive intervention therapies. At age 6 ½, Matt emerged from therapy and completely involved himself in all things musical. Flourishing at a hyper-accelerated pace, he taught himself to read music and play piano, literally overnight.
From his emergence as a child prodigy to his continuance as a mature and respected artist, Matt has been the focus of media attention. He has appeared/performed on Marian McPartland’s “Piano Jazz,” NPR’s “All Things Considered,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” the “Today” Show, ABC’s “20/20,” the Discovery Channel, BBC, Telemundo TV, and news shows and documentaries worldwide (including the U.S., Germany, France, Japan and the U.K.)Numerous print outlets have featured stories on Matt and reviews of his music and performances including The Wall Street Journal, JazzTimes, JAZZIZ, TIME, WIRED, Der Spiegel, The Jerusalem Report, People Magazine, TIME for Kids, American Way, The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, The Boston Globe and the New York Daily News.
Splash Variations represents a new direction for Matt Savage, who graduated from Berklee College of Music and earned his Master’s from Manhattan School of Music. As his journey continues, Matt enjoys the creative evolution of his professional music career and the opportunity to perform in as many locations as possible. Back in the Boston area, Matt teaches at Bunker Hill Community College as an adjunct faculty member, as well as Community Music Center of Boston, Note-worthy Experiences and Boston School of Music Arts. He also gives masterclasses and workshops domestically and internationally (in English and Spanish) as well as private piano lessons. Matt’s downtime may be infrequent, but when he is not touring or teaching, he might be found at his family’s cabin in Maine – a perfect backdrop for relaxation, rejuvenation and the inspiration to write an occasional song.