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There’s nothing really exceptional about jazz pianist Matt Savage. Nothing, that is, unless you consider the following:
At age three, Matt was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), a form of autism, and was unable to tolerate loud noises or even music.
After more than three years of therapy that tempered his sensitivity to sound, Matt quickly taught himself to read music and play piano. In 1999, at age seven, he recorded his first CD, One Is Not Fun, But 20 Is Plenty, and a mere five years later, having taken classes with master pianist Eyran Katsenelenbogen at the New England Conservatory, was dazzling audiences at New York City’s famed Birdland and other venues.
Once his story became widely known, Matt was interviewed and praised by everyone from David Letterman and Conan O’Brien to NBC’s Today, ABC’s 20/20, the Discovery Channel, NPR’s All Things Considered and the legendary Marian McPartland on Piano Jazz. He was profiled on news shows and documentaries and in newspapers and magazines around the world, and began performing with a who’s who of established jazz artists including Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, John Pizzarelli, Clark Terry, Josh Redman, Jimmy Heath, Jon Faddis and a host of others from the realms of jazz, folk and rock.
He also started traveling around the world to perform at jazz festivals and other events and even played for the president of Singapore.
Now twenty-four, with degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and Boston’s Berklee College of Music, almost a dozen well-received CDs under his belt and another one on the way, Matt is set to perform at the Albuquerque Museum on Saturday, July 23, as part of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop’s Jazz Under the Stars series. The concert is co-sponsored by the Jazz Workshop and New Mexico Autism Society. Tickets may be purchased at www.nmjazz.org. Matt Savage will also conduct a Jazz Improv Workshop on Sunday July 24 at 10:00 AM at the New Mexico Jazz Workshop studio at 5500 Lomas NE, ABQ.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to visit many countries,” Matt says, “but haven’t yet seen all of this one. I know a little about about the Southwest, what a lovely area it is, as I’ve played once in Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma, so I’m looking forward to adding New Mexico to the list.
“Aside from that, it’s another chance to share my music with an audience that may not have heard it before. That’s always a pleasure for me, and, I hope, for them as well.”
In Albuquerque, Matt will be leading a trio whose other members are bassist Micky Patten and drummer Fernando Garavito. He’ll be preceded onstage (at 7 p.m.) by another threesome, Right About Now (guitarist Lewis Winn, percussionist John Bartlit and bassist Jon McMillan).
Earlier Saturday, he’ll be at the Guild Theatre to talk about the documentary Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story, for which Matt composed, arranged and recorded the music. The film will be shown at the Guild at 1 p.m.
“That was a labor of love for me,” Matt says, expressing his admiration for the late alto saxophonist who lived in New Mexico for a number of years and overcame substance abuse and incarceration to make an impressive comeback in his later years.
An accomplished composer and arranger, Matt also wrote most of the songs on his eleven CDs, the most recent of which is A Live Celebration, recorded in 2012 in Kobe, Japan. In 2014, Matt premiered two of his classical works, Piano Sonata No. 1 and 24 Preludes, at Café Vivaldi in New York. A solo album, Piano Voyages, will be released in October.
“I’ve studied classical music as well as jazz,” Matt says, “and there is some cross-over, even though jazz is of course more spontaneous, classical music more rigorous. In Albuquerque, the audience will be hearing pure jazz, played from the heart and with soul.”
For information about the concert, or to purchase tickets, go online to www.nmjazz.org.
Jack Bowers, a former newsman, reviews big-band and other albums at the multiple award-winning website, All About Jazz.