Primary Instrument: Piano
Uniquely combining the superlative technique of a classical virtuoso with his prowess in jazz, world music and free improvisation, pianist, composer and arranger Matt Herskowitz has carved out a unique and personal voice in music. Over the course of the last decade, Matt has produced a series of critically-acclaimed recordings, premiered his works in settings from New York's Central Park to Germany's Köln Philharmonie, collaborated with top classical, jazz and pop artists, and has performed at music festivals across the globe.
His newest release, for Justin Time Records, is Matt Herskowitz Upstairs, a solo outing ranging from Gershwin to Schumann to Dave Brubeck to originals by Herskowitz, including Bella's Lament and Bach à la Jazz, his arrangement of Bach's Prelude in C Minor which Herskowitz previously recorded for EMI's Grammy-nominated soundtrack to The Triplets of Belleville. In naming the release “Solo Album of the Year,” Le Devoir declared: “Herskowitz deploys his art with a rare passion, but without ever sacrificing musicality. Exceptional technique, precise sense of nuance, Herskowitz here brilliantly fuses his mastery of jazz and classical.” And Downbeat magazine praised Upstairs in its Editor's Picks: “Throughout these eight tracks, [Herskowitz] displays touch, power, artistry and chops along with a firm grasp of the daring needed for a great performance.”
Upstairs follows-up Matt's critically-acclaimed, Juno-nominated world music fusion album Jerusalem Trilogy, which features the pianist's original compositions and arrangements in his signature synthesis of contemporary jazz and classical styles, combined with a unique blend of Arab and Jewish grooves. Among the album's fans was the late great Dave Brubeck who commended Matt on the recording, saying: “Congratulations! You have transformed the concept of ‘world’ music as I conceived of it half a century ago. You have carried it further than I could imagine.” In addition to his jazz trio, the album features violinist Lara St. John, saxophonist/flutist Daniel Schnyder and special guest Bassam Saba on Nay and Oud. Matt and his group have performed Jerusalem Trilogy all over the world, including the El Paso Chamber Music Festival, Le Poisson Rouge in New York City, the Bremen International Musikfest, the Warsaw Singer Festival, and the Montreal International Jazz Festival.
His 2007 solo release, Matt Herskowitz Plays George Gershwin, featuring Matt's original solo arrangements of the Concerto in F and Cuban Overture, as well as Gershwin's great solo arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue, was nominated for Quebec's prestigious Prix Opus, while his 2006 solo release, Gabriel's Message, featuring original arrangements and compositions based on Christmas themes, was nominated for Québec's Félix award for “Best Jazz Album.” Matt's 1998 recording of Glazunov's 2nd Piano Concerto with I Musici de Montréal (Chandos Records) was hailed by Strad Magazine as “by far the best performance [of the work] on disc.”
Premieres of Matt's compositions include his 2012 Concerto Grosso with The Knights, an eclectic New York-based symphony orchestra, in Central Park on the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts series. The concert was broadcast live on WQXR and Matt was praised in The New York Times for his “imaginative, virtuosic solo.” The same year, Matt premiered Nagilara, a piece for violin and piano based on the famous Jewish tune Hava Nagila, commissioned by and performed with violinist Lara St. John, on New York's Lyric Chamber Music Society series. In 2008, Herskowitz premiered his piano concerto, Undertow, with Absolute Ensemble, a cross-genre chamber orchestra who commissioned the work, at Germany's Bremen International Musikfest. He later performed the piece with Absolute Ensemble at the Köln Philharmonie in Cologne, Germany in a concert broadcast on WDR German television. Matt's first musical theatre outing, Bella, The Colour of Love, co-written by and starring Theresa Tova, received its premier at the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts in 2011. In 2012, Matt and Tova performed a reworked version at the Warsaw Singer Festival, directed by celebrated dancer/choreographer Danny Grossman.
As a songwriter and arranger, Matt has collaborated with numerous artists in a range of musical realms. In addition to his hugely popular “Bach à la Jazz” from the film The Triplets of Belleville, Matt's 17-minute solo Piano Nocturne was featured on Lara Fabian's album Nue (Universal, 2001), earning him many new thousands of fans in Europe. In 2007, Matt and his trio were featured on Barry Manilow's In The Swing of Christmas, for which Matt collaborated on some arrangements. The album was nominated for a Grammy award for “Best Traditional Pop Album” in 2009.
Matt's upcoming projects include a recording of his original arrangements of music by Bach with his trio and renowned Italian flutist Andrea Griminelli, and an upcoming release for 2014 with his jazz trio and string quartet entitled From Bach To Brubeck, which will feature original compositions and arrangements based on the music of both composers.
A graduate of the Juilliard School in New York and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Matt is originally from Albany, New York, and has made Montreal his adopted home of 14 years. When not playing or composing, Matt indulges in his passions for science fiction, mountain climbing, Scotch, and ping pong.
“Throughout these eight tracks, [Herskowitz] displays touch, power, artistry and chops along with a firm grasp of the daring needed for a great performance ... Herskowitz packs the program with beautifully played jazz chestnuts and original compositions.” - DOWNBEAT, Editor's Pick
“An impressive solo performance by pianist Matt Herskowitz … His baroque to bop ‘Bach a la Jazz’ spotlights formidable technique, while his uptown stylings of Gershwin’s ‘But Not For Me’ is upright and sophisticated. He finally lets loose on a hotcha reading of ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’ making a well-rounded evening. Impressive and intellectual.” - JAZZ WEEKLY
“Herskowitz deploys his art with a rare passion, but without ever sacrificing musicality. Exceptional technique, precise sense of nuance, Herskowitz here brilliantly fuses his mastery of jazz and classical.” - LE DEVOIR
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