14 Mar Inside the Mind of Jazz Musician Matt Marshak
We spent an hour with acclaimed jazz musician Matt Marshak to talk about his music, inspiration and the creative process of his successful career. His music has taken him far and wide domestically and internationally. We are excited to have him perform during our Live at Indigo music series for Long Island Winterfest this Saturday, March 18th at 7pm in the ballroom. You can enjoy a 4-course prix fixe dinner for $55/person (+tax, gratuity) during this live performance, too. Just call us to make a reservation: (631) 369-2200 ext. 0. (See the menu here.)
Below is an edited and condensed version of the interview.
What musicians would you say, past or present inspire you and why?
It’s pretty diverse, but it ranges from rock guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, blues artists such as BB King to jazz greats like Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Larry Carlton and, of course, Prince and James Brown are very influential.
Do those artists influence your sound?
Yeah, you take it all in and you sort of synthesize it. You come up with your take on it. It mixes in with original ideas that you have and unique approaches that we all have as artists. So, a combination of that and there’s your style. At least for me, that’s how it works.
If you were to choose one word that best describes your sound what would be?
Hand-crafted. That’s what I try to go for. I try to carve out notes and produce very authentic songs.
What music would be the soundtrack to your life?
That’s a good question. It’s probably some sort of contemporary jazz. A blend of everything. One song that I’ve written called “One Happy Guy.” It’s a culmination of my life. So it has everything in that song. It embodies who I am.
Can you describe your creative process on a day to day?
Sure, I think you’re inspired by life, experiences, trips, emotions, and playing jazz instruments and music, you aren’t bound by any lyrics or limitations–you can freely paint. What we do as contemporary jazz artists is painting music. I had an album called Urban Folktales and, really, the album was a painting of the urban scene. Skyline, streetlights, late-night jazz clubs. It was a painting of all the cities I’ve traveled to and that’s fun because it’s great to convey that message. People tune into that. I’m always looking for a new way to create. Our new record New York is more bluesy thing reminiscent of 1970s recordings where the whole band was in the studio and technology was limited. It’s a raw, old-fashioned record.
Do you have a favorite album of all of the ones you created? And how frequently do you plan albums?
It just so happens that every year and a half, two years we put out a record. Sometimes I’ve had other records written, but [I] haven’t recorded [them] yet. I’m always cataloging things and sometimes when you’re busy touring you don’t have time to record. “Urban Folktales” was a concept record, and sometimes it’s hit or miss when you do that, but with this one I feel like the music and even the artwork, we did an old school 8-panel. People liked that for nostalgia reasons.
Favorite city that you’ve performed in domestically or internationally?
I’ve had some memorable performances in Dubai, Germany, and Spain. It’s because you’re out of your element, in a new place. In Europe, they have a wider age bracket to my kind of music from teenagers to older. In the states, every year I perform a lot of shows in the Carolinas and it’s always great to go back there. I feel like it’s a second home–North and South Carolina.
When you do live performances do you change your set to customize where you’re going?
I always customize the set and the version of the songs. You have to adapt in some ways to the venue and the audience. Having the diverse band and set list that we have, there is so much we can do.
Are you involved in furniture design?
Yes, I was performing in North Carolina and one of the big furniture makers there Pulaski furniture approached me. They really liked my music and they partner with artists to give furniture lines a story. So, they asked me if I would do one that would be a small home concept with jazz and blues inspiration. I said yes, went down there, and we had a meeting. A few years later the line is called Rhythm & Home and it’s a national brand. It’s available throughout the country and online as well. Two categories: Modern Harmony and Vintage Tempo. Part of the deal, they would furnish my home and it took a while but one day a big truck pulled up to my home in Riverhead and they held through with the promise. I thanked my mom for guitar lessons at that point.
What’s your favorite part of the East End or favorite places?
Visiting Montauk, Turkuaz Grill, a Turkish Restaurant in Riverhead, Baiting Hollow, and hanging out in Greenport with the family.
Favorite local wine or beer?
I can get in trouble with this one. How about an East End 2010 Merlot.