I’m confident that “Urban Folktales” will be regarded as one of the top contemporary jazz CDs of 2011. This is the Matt Marshak you’ve been waiting for. Absolutely stunning.”
Brian Soergel, JazzTimes
There’s no denying Matt Marshak’s mastery of the contemporary jazz format, as he lays down original, stylish guitar licks with shades of the blues, rock, pop, soul and—of course—jazz. On April 1, 2011, Marshak returns with his freshest and cohesive work to date with Urban Folktales (Nuance Music Group). It’s his sixth major release and bound to be on Top 10 lists.
“It’s my first theme record, one that sticks to the same vibe from top to bottom,” says Marshak. “I really wanted to capture the essence of the late-night city sound, an intangible vibe I’ve always been drawn to.”
Marshak is known for his lively, fun and energetic live shows, and it’s on stage where he drew the inspiration for Urban Folktales. He’d recently noticed that fans enthusiastically responded to the tune “Seduction” from his 2009 CD Family Funktion (Nuance Music Group). “It has a combination of neo- soul, R&B, jazz and funk,” he says. “People always ask about ‘Seduction’ after we play it. They told me they really like the open-ended, airy sound that’s at its essence.”
With the positive feedback fresh in his mind, Marshak decided to craft an unforgettable CD of the style of music he knew his fans would love—as well as new listeners. The 13 original songs on Urban Folktales, from “Next to You,” “A Silent Knowing,” “Harlem River” and others, certainly capture the “Seduction” vibe, making for a stunning work and cohesive whole, a welcome change from today’s single-song-download mentality. Of course, Marshak’s guitar work—sometimes refined, sometimes gritty, always compelling and listenable—is what Marshak’s sound has always been about. But on Urban Folktales, his guitar often yields to the overall sonic palette. In fact, on several excursions, Marshak dials down his chord changes, allowing the emphasis of dynamics and emotions to carry the listening experience instead of overwhelming it with musical information.
Being one of the finest guitarists in the contemporary jazz genre means that Marshak also digs experimenting with his guitar sounds. “The straight hollow- body jazz guitar sound to me is everywhere today,” he says, “so I really wanted to experiment and have the guitar leads to be a bit different and fresh.” Specifically? Well, you’ve no doubt heard plenty of contemporary jazz songs that use the cool wah-wah guitar pedal sound as a rhythm accompaniment. Marshak decided to turn that on its head. “I had never heard anybody using it on the lead in contemporary jazz,” he says. On the tracks “Teddy P” and “Glen Burnie,” he does just that. “The funkiness and expressive sound it allowed me was refreshing. Not only do you have hands at work, but the foot pedal adds another level of expression to the lead sound.” It a sound that sound more “vocal.”
Whether his music sounds vocal or instrumental, Marshak has been one of most appealing new faces in contemporary jazz. That’s even before the late, great and influential CD 101.9 smooth-jazz radio station in New York named him one of the best new smooth-jazz artists. Later would come worldwide recognition from JazzTimes magazine, which showered praise on his music and unique style.
Marshak, a native of Long Island, New York, grew up on rock ‘n’ roll music in a home full of musicians. Passing guitarists inspired his playing, and in high school he honed his chops with three well-respected teachers: Joseph “Joey” Casciano, Mike Orioles and Richard Rabatin. They all inspired in him a lifelong commitment to his craft, while Rabatin in particular turned him on to the contemporary jazz and blues guitar sounds of Larry Carlton, George Benson and Robben Ford. While attending college at SUNY Geneseo, Matt had the opportunity to play with a blues and R&B group, as well as connecting and improvising with straight-ahead jazz saxophonist Joseph Yoon. Once out of college, Marshak performed a variety of musical styles with New York’s top original bands and artists, even drawing praise from Deep Purple’s legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore.
In 2001, Marshak released his debut CD Preservation and began to get even more notice in New York, which led to CD 101.9’s endorsement in 2003. He opened for the popular Guitars & Saxes tour and in 2004 offered This Time Around, followed by Groovosphere in 2006 and On the Rocks in 2008, the latter earning praise from JazzTimes as “one of the best smooth jazz CDs of the year, for sure.” On the Rocks also delivered a Top 30 nationwide smooth jazz hit with the cover song, which was also played extensively on Sirius Jazz Café radio station.
While excited about the release of Urban Folktales, Marshak—never one to settle down musically—has also been working on an all-acoustic guitar, new age and winter-themed music, as well as what promises to be a beefy juicy modern blues record. “It’s very exciting to be working on so many sounds that have been dancing in my head for years,” he says.
While 2010 was a great year from Marshak (he and his wife Dionne had their first child, daughter Madison), 2011 looks to be an ever bigger, action-packed year for Marshak, who will also be doing some recording with acclaimed Canadian contemporary jazz band Four80East. Urban Folktales will have its world premiere on the prestigious smoothjazz.com website and many live shows are lining up. “I can’t wait to get out and start playing some of the new songs,” Marshak says.
Although Marshak is busy with live shows and the recording studio, he also finds time to write TV jingles (his guitar was featured on the New York Mets’ Mets Zone on Fox Sports) and conduct guitar clinics. But Marshak also enjoys giving back. He is a supporter of multiple sclerosis and autism awareness, and visits countless schools to help spread the joy of music to kids of all ages.
Marshak is also proud to be a part of the new music scene growing on eastern Long Island. To check out upcoming shows, check out the Tour page on the main page of his website, mattmarshak.com.