Matt Jorgensen +451
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Matt Jorgensen +451

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE
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Oct
03
Matt Jorgensen +451 @ Seattle Weekly Reverb Festival

Seattle, Washington, USA

Seattle, Washington, USA

Dec
11
Matt Jorgensen +451 @ Seattle Art Museum

Seattle, Washington, USA

Seattle, Washington, USA

Nov
20
Matt Jorgensen +451 @ Ballard Jazz Walk

Seattle, Washington, USA

Seattle, Washington, USA

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Matt Jorgensen + 451 has created a distinctive music, a free flying jazz sound with a 1960s rock sensibility, bursting with enormous chops. It's a mix of Ryan Burns' often out there, Jimi Hendix-ian keyboard work (wailing on Fender Rhodes, organ and Moog ), Mark Tayor's bite-of-lime saxophone tang, Jorgensen's multi-layered percussion complexities and Phil Sparks' deep in the pocket bass work. Mix it up and it's unmistakable on the blindfold test.

The group is a rhythm section and saxophone, but it sounds like no other. No one playing in this format—with the exception of perhaps Vijay Iyer—has crafted a more distinctive jazz identity.

Another Morning is a big step forward from the excellent Hope (Origin Records, 2004). There's a more on-the-edge feeling to the music, the approach a bit more unfettered. The musicians have grown and the sound has evolved in the direction of urgency and adventure.

Opening with “New Beginnings,” Burns' reverent organ goes to church. Then flip the light switch, and Matt Jorgensen + 451 blows in, very much in a democratic mode, joined by guest trumpeter Thomas Marriott.

The jazz/rock aesthetic comes in large part from Burns, for whom there are no limits to the noises made on his keyboards. Aiding the effort is guest guitarist Jason Goessl on the Matt Jorgensen/Jeff McSpadden-penned “Sweet Pea.” The keyboard and guitar sound like competing blacksmiths trading metallic hammer blows in front of Jorgensen's industrial percussion groove.

The sixties atmosphere is bolstered by two covers of rock songs: The Beatles' “Helter Skelter”—one of the more raucous tunes from their white album, The Beatles (Apple Records, 1968)—and Neil Young's protest over the 1970 Kent State killings, “Ohio,” that again features Goessl, sounding crunchy and quite Neil Young-ish.

It's been a four-year span between 2004's Hope and 2008's Another Morning, but Matt Jorgensen + 451 have made it worth the wait. Another fine and distinctive outing, with the adventure factor up a couple of notches. - All About Jazz.com


A rainstorm rolled into San Diego—the first such in six months—on the night that Seattle's Matt Jorgensen + 451 rolled in on the tail end of a west coast tour, for a concert at Dizzy's. I don't know if Matt and company pulled the precipitation in with them from the wetter climes of their home turf, but they did definitely bring with them their own modern and distinctive take on jazz.

The ride south on the freeway into the big city featured the steady, gentle, percussive rhythm of the raindrops on the car's roof. The parking on Ninth Avenue lay within shouting distance of huddled homeless folks, dealing with the unaccustomed damp. And Dizzy's—a retired warehouse, replete with a roll-up garage door, propped open this night by a wooden box—lurked, quaintly shabby, in the shadow of a spanking new downtown baseball park. Inside the club, brick walls and a buffed concrete floor waited to enliven, with their natural resonance qualities, the music of Matt Jorgensen + 451.

Drummer Jorgensen and his quintet were on the final stop of the tour to promote their latest CD, Hope (Origin Records, '04), and they churned into their set with the CD's opener, “Slinky”, to a sparse crowd, a mere handful of listeners. Happily, by the time the set's second number was underway, the place had filled up respectably (fashionable lateness, I suppose), with a surprisingly young crowd for a jazz quintet playing songs by Mingus (”Fables of Faubus”), Coltrane (”India”), and Miles Davis (”Teo”). The appeal to a younger crowd may be the freshness of the group's sound—especially Ryan Burns's glowing and buoyant Fender Rhodes work; an instrument that sounded modern in the sixties when Miles incorporated it, and still sounds that way today. Or maybe it's the sometimes rock flavor of the band; they do a killer version of Coldplay's “God Put a Smile on Your Face”, on Hope and in concert. Jorgensen is an inventive drummer, a mix of rock stylings, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams and Chico Hamilton, and his spare but always intriquing percussion accompaniment to Phil Sparks on a couple of the bassist's tasteful and intense solos was always right on mark.

The saxophonists kicked. Mark Taylor was on alto that night, sounding sometimes tart, sometimes Bird-ish, smoldering, flaring up, burning long clean lines; while Matt Otto—Jorgensen's old running mate from the drummer's New York days—blew with a big round tone. He and Taylor opened up “Che”—an Otto-penned tune—with two horn harmony, sounding especially robust with their sound bouncing off the warehouse walls. The group here reminded me of sixties Coltrane groove, in the Coltrane album mode, with Jorgensen churning out a rain-on-the-roof snare work, his cymbal sound like water splashing from the rain gutters.

A marvelous, alive concert, by a group that's steering jazz sounds onto a new and modern tangent. The highlights were two songs I hadn't heard before, from a previous CD. “Quiet Silence”, that walked a spiritual abstract/mainstream line; and Jorgensen's high energy “For Tony”, a Tony Williams tribute, that had the leader in that rolling thunder, wall of percussive sound mode, punctuated with intermittent explosions. - All About Jazz (Dan McClenaghan)


Originally from Seattle, drummer, composer, and bandleader Matt Jorgensen began pursuing music relatively late. After only a few years of study during college, he picked up and left home to throw himself into the New York jazz scene. Now, ten years later, he's formed a critically acclaimed ensemble, released his fourth album, and is co-owner of his own label, Origin Records.

A young player expanding the sound of jazz with his distinctive compositions and sound, Mr. Jorgensen has a lot to say'both with his music, and otherwise.


All About Jazz: Let's talk about the albums. You've really built a very recognizable sound. You're pulling from a lot of places that are somewhat unusual for Jazz right now. I really like both these albums'I have Quiet Silence and Hope right in front of me. I've been listening to them since I got'em. The first thing that struck me was the use of the Fender Rhodes. I've been hearing it a lot more recently, but you've really been using it a lot.

MJ: It's kind of funny. It happened really by accident. The very first record we did was called The Road Begins Here. If you go back to the mid nineties when I started leading my own bands it was originally two saxophones, bass, and drums. We were gonna do the record that way and then scheduling conflicts happened so at the last minute I said, 'lets bring in Marc Seales''a piano player from Seattle whose fairly well known. The only way he would do it was if he could use the Fender Rhodes. It was the only way he wanted to do the date is if he could play the Fender Rhodes. So I kinda came up with arrangements. We did 'No Quarter' by Led Zepplin on that record. It's kind of funny. It's one of those things that happened totally by accident, but it worked. And it just stuck around. Now five years later I'm a considered a genius for it. I can't really take credit for it.

AAJ: It really connects the sound with a very trip-hop feel that you seem to be working with.

MJ: It definitely goes beyond the classic jazz quartet sound. It opens up many more avenues of potential ways we can go. It has power too. You can just do so much more with it than a piano.

We did the first record, and then some gigs. Then I flew back to Seattle in 2001 and we recorded Quiet Silence. Both those records were done with two rehearsals and then into the studio. Then we toured a bit and I moved back to Seattle in 2002. We did some more touring when the album came out, but Marc Seales couldn't make it so Ryan Burns did the tours and then just stuck around in the band. And Ryan, on top of using the Fender Rhodes, uses a lot of effects. He's really changed the sound even further by using more electronics.

AAJ: You can hear even more of a shift with Hope. I was wondering if you'd been deliberately delving into more Ambient and Electronica sounds.

MJ: It's two things. There's that, and also a lot of music I've been writing and want to do has moved more into the surreal and free kind of realm. The thing about Ryan'a lot of people who play the Rhodes are piano players who play the Fender Rhodes. Ryan plays the Fender Rhodes. That's his main thing. He knows it inside and out. It has this enveloping, warm sound. When we did Hope we'd been playing for a year, doing gigs. A lot of that music was written in the course of the tour. We'd been playing it for awhile and we moved away from what was on the page, started being more interactive. Trying to create art instead of just playing music.

AAJ: There seems to be a connection between some of what your doing and Electronica, some early Trip-hop like Portishead. You've covered Radiohead and Coldplay. Is it a conscious decision to incorporate those sounds'

MJ: I listen to a lot of rock music. All kinds of music. I'm always looking for those tunes, those Pop tunes'I realized recently on the last three records I've only covered British pop music. Someone pointed it out to me. I hadn't even realized it. It leant itself so well. I should probably do 'American Pie' now. Something totally red, white and blue.

There's really two things. Obviously there's music I've grown up listening to and liked. And all of us are now in our thirties. We started it in our twenties. We're playing for people our age. For people our age, this is music we remember. There's the root history of Jazz where you covered Pop music of the day, but more importantly they're good songs. There's that connection. If Jazz is gonna survive we have to connect with people who are buying records. Old people don't buy records as much as young people do. There was a renaissance of Jazz in the '90s because young people in college got into it again. Did you ever go to Smalls' I was there when they first opened up. Its amazing that every night'they opened up at ten o'clock and for the first few years it was a real struggle, but once they found their niche every night at nine o'clock there'd be a line around the block of kids from NYU waiting to get in. To hear jazz music. That's the stupidest thing you'd ever hear of!!!

AAJ: That's what really struck me when I heard those particular songs. There's this resonance to it. Obviously I'm not denigrating anyone else's approach, but there's this resonance when you start hearing songs that you grew up with. You here a sound that brings you into it. I think that's something much of the Jazz industry has forgotten. That's one of the reasons why the old time Jazz players used those Pop songs.

MJ: At the same time I don't want to be seen as selling out with this music to try and get the kids. It's not that at all. I'm trying to present a good time. I'm trying to present honest music. It's part of who I am.

AAJ: That's what I'm driving at. We didn't grow up with 'Embraceable You' as our Pop songs. We can enjoy it, but it's not been internalized in the same way.

MJ: You're right, that's right. It's interesting. We'll go play gigs at college campuses and they'll ask 'Oh, what kind of band are you guys'' 'We're a Jazz band.' And they're like, 'I don't like Jazz music.' 'Well, have you heard us yet'' 'Well, no.' 'Then stick around.' Then afterwards, 'Oh yeah, I really liked that. That doesn't sounds like normal Jazz to me.' And its like, its all just music. I don't like Limp Biskit, but I don't say I don't like Rock music. Or Rock and Rap. Because I like Rage Against the Machine. Its about expounding your boundaries.

AAJ: I find that happens to me a lot. People tell me they don't like Jazz until I take them to hear it live. Then they walk out and are like, 'Wow. That was really good.' Most of them have never heard any Jazz live, let alone the more modern stuff.

I want to go back to Hope again for a bit and talk about some of the tracks in more detail. Looking at some of the tunes, the three part piece 'Hope,' 'Peacefulness,' 'Sanguine,' there seems to be a conceptual quality to the album. Could you go through how that came about'

MJ: Well, a lot of shits happened in the last couple years. It's definitely changed who I am. I have this incredible opportunity of being able to put music out, of being able to talk to people like you and get stuff in print, and I wear my emotions on my sleeve most of the time too, so I think with everything that's happened it effects everyone. It effects you, it effects your art, it effects music. I'm searching for something more. Not to compare myself at all'you listen to John Coltrane and you think about it, he was on a path that I don't think anyone except him can really understand. I think coming out of the last two records, I'm trying to move beyond just playing gigs, just writing tunes. I'm trying to find something.

AAJ: There's an overt spiritual, searching quality to Hope.

MJ: Yeah, totally. I think that started with the last record.

AAJ: I felt you were heading that direction with the rendition of 'India' and then 'Blessing' and 'Quiet Silence.' There seems to be something you're reaching for.

MJ: Playing this music live, every time it's incredibly draining because I'm trying'I'm not really religious. I'm spiritual'so for me, this is my passion. Music. And reaching that place where you're not just playing the music on the page, you're creating and you're entering the music. You become a part of it. That's what I think about. That's what I really want from the musical experience of playing with people. This connection that is beyond anything you can verbalize.

AAJ: There's always talk about how disengaged young people are these days. Disengaged politically, from what's happening around them. Are you trying to work against that' Is there a connection between art and that kind of engagement'

MJ: It's an indirect connection. I want people to listen. Listen to the music and make your own decisions. First and foremost listen. Most people don't listen. They hear. They don't really listen to music. That goes with any kind of music. I come back to Coltrane again. You can hear what's on the stereo, but if you really listen to it and place it in context, its like, 'My god. What was he thinking'' I can only imagine what he was thinking. He died at a fairly young age. Did he know he was going to pass away' I think he was trying to seek that higher spiritual plane with his music.

Now I'm not necessarily trying to do that'yet. But you talked about 'Hope'. It appeared three times on the record. If you look at the music it's a very simple descending chord progression. But I tell the guys in the band that there's this idea behind the tune. The record is a song of hope. This song is a record of hope and its in three parts. You watch the news now and you can either get depressed or you can see this as an opportunity for things to get better. 'Hope Part I' is a contemplative type of piece, but 'Hope Part II' which appears last is joyous. When things are bad you can just say 'fuck the world'. Just scream. 'I'm gonna do my thing and I don't give a fuck what everyone else thinks.'

You have what's actually written on 'Hope' and it's very simple. To be honest in the music you have to let everything fall to its simplest part and build it back up. What you hear you could never'I feel like my name is on the tune, but it's a collective ensemble piece. I can't compose that. Everyone is brining in their own experience to that tune, the way they were feeling.

AAJ: I thought the way the parts were layed out throughout the album was interesting as well. After 'God Put a Smile on You Face' and right then right before 'Che,' then the third part is in the middle between 'Peacefulness' and 'Sanguine' and then it returns at the end. It runs through the album uniting the other pieces.

MJ: The first record was kind of thrown together, but starting with Quiet Silence and then this record, I really see it as a complete piece. It's kind of like when you go to a gallery you'd have all the pieces and an artist looks at how all the photos lay out. And the user comes in and he's going to go from one part of the gallery to the next and you have to make sure there's a continuous flow. In a way you are manipulating the user into a way of viewing the art'I thought a lot about that when I did the record. It's not just a record of ten tunes. This is one thing from beginning to end. It's the same when we play it live. I make set lists and re-write them because this is a complete work.

AAJ: The complete opposite of 'Let's just call tunes.'

MJ: My way of looking at it'I have a tremendous amount of respect for the listener, so I'm probably a little too intense when I'm on stage, but talking to the band I always say 'We're giving this experience to the audience. This is work time.' Maybe I'm too intense with that, but I think if you have that respect for the listener, you'll get that respect back from the audience. - All About Jazz (Franz A. Matzner)


Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with drummer Matt Jorgensen, who helms Matt Jorgensen + 451, one of those rare gems in jazz: a group that makes the tradition of blues-based improvisation sound fresh and new. After chatting about Emergency! (Polydor), the legendary 1969 jazz-rock album instigated by drummer Tony Williams ("The tunes on that record are simple but there's a lot of emotion there; that group's visceral impact is what we're after"), as well as lamenting the standard fate of up-and-coming Seattle musicians ("We're much better known outside Seattle"), Jorgensen remarked, "In jazz, you're supposed to take chances with the music."

I dig this drummer-driven group because they take chances and cook, too. Jorgensen's animated cymbal fills and a willingness to bash the drums when needed blend perfectly with Ryan Burns' adroit comping on an electric piano. Burns' concoction of mysterioso fizzing and burbling adds menace and mystery to many of the group's tunes, especially their fine cover of Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter" on The Sonarchy Session (Origin). Phil Sparks, a first-call bassist for all sorts of jazz gigs around town, anchors the group with a steady groove while their longtime saxophonist Mark Taylor keeps things visceral with bluesy, impassioned solos.

And unlike the great Tony Williams, whose later albums suffered from Jazz Drummer's Disease--an impolite tendency to hog the spotlight and squeeze bandmates out of the music--Jorgensen gives his compadres free rein to make the music happen. "Much of my music starts out as sketches. Together we take chances, giving these songs a form and bringing out the emotions behind the music." - The Stranger (Chris DeLaurenti)


This is not only one of the finest albums produced by Seattle's Origin Records, it's one of the most satisfying, well-made and seductive recordings currently in rotation in my house. The world-jazz mood is dark and earthy, like flamenco and electric Miles — with minor keys, throbbing bass lines and unusual meters.

Marc Seales' Fender Rhodes provides a slinky, silken cushion. Saxophonists Mark Taylor (alto) and Rob Davis (tenor) take the lead lines, Phil Sparks plays with Mingus-like conviction and drummer/leader Matt Jorgensen (a partner at Origin) drives the proceedings with multidirectional precision and fire.

The rock-ish "Everything in the Right Place" has a joyous, Dave Holland-like determination. "Tumbleweed" evokes the lonesome, pensive mood its title suggests. A bossa nod to Burt Bacharach, with "The Look of Love," is a nice touch; tackling Coltrane's "India" is a bold move. Nice work! - Seattle Times (Paul de Barros)


Matt Jorgensen is an unusual jazzman. He is young, he runs his band from the drum kit, he knows when to give and when to take within a song and he has a rock aesthetic that lends intensity to his improvisations for 'The Road Begins Here.'

Sure, Jorgensen and company cover the expected numbers such as Miles Davis' 'Teo' and John Coltrane's 'Central Park West,' but where he and his bandmates are truly terrific is on their cover of Led Zeppelin's 'No Quarter.' It doesn't require a keen ear to extract the melody from the song, yet 451 twists it to the point where it might be mistaken for an original composition. - New York Post


Discography

Another Morning (Origin 82500) - 2008
Hope (Origin 82419) - 2004
The Sonarchy Session (Origin 82001) - 2003
Quiet Silence (Origin 82401) - 2003
The Road Begins Here (Origin 82377) - 2000

Photos

Bio

Where is jazz heading? Can an art form steeped in tradition once again excite the public's collective imagination? Few musical groups answer these essential questions as thrillingly as Matt Jorgensen + 451.

Matt Jorgensen is a drummer, composer and arranger who formed this band, 451, to combine intellectual and pop musical energies into a fever dream, a cry of our culture's impending future. After three critically hailed recordings and countless performances on both American coasts, Matt and 451 have it all together: their unique sound, the tumultuous yet precise outpourings, that interplay of mystery, romance and passion all mixed together in jazz unmoored from traditional conventions and clich�s.

Like science fiction without words, 451 fills the mind with visions and vistas both beautiful and ominous. The music bristles with portent. This is jazz re-imagined for a new millennium, infused by the exultant energies of rock and shimmering vibrations of the far galaxies. It is an artistry of questions and quests, raised to the highest plane in the ecstasy of unleashed musical invention.

One of the first jazz groups to re-introduce fender rhodes piano as a leading voice, 451 features an unusual combination of instruments - that by now have come to sound utterly organic. With music and musicians committed to something more than the accumulation of brilliant solos, electronics interweave perfectly with saxophones, bass and drums. 451 is made up of players who hold nothing back, who rock out in high-octane group virtuosity. Their fury and joy are palpable, but ever focused. With worlds of sound to explore, they dare to firmly control the maelstrom they create.

Given music so pictorial in essence, it is little wonder that 451's explorations have recently expanded to include multi-media events. At venues like Seattle's EMP Sky Church, grandly abstract videos deepen the rich layering of their exhilarating intimations. So along the way, remember these names: Drummer Matt Jorgensen, bassist Phil Sparks, keyboards marvel Ryan Burns, with Mark Taylor and Rob Davis on saxophones. For they are on a journey toward what's next in musical history.