The Former Champions
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The Former Champions


Band Jazz Alternative


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This band has not uploaded any videos



""The band gives their audience a varied and fun-loving product.""

The Former Champions bring us Funk, Swing and plenty of mainstreat jazz ideas. They're fresh and they apply their themes delicately...whether driving up-tempo or dancing on waves of lightening, the band gives their audience a varied and fun-loving product. This is modern jazz that needs no hype to impress. Their music speaks well for itself. Jim Santella
- Cadence: July 2007

"This CD sounds absolutely terrific compositionally"

This CD sounds absolutely terrific compositionally, soloistically, and productio
Reviewer: VCU JAZZ E-NEWS, Vol. 6, No. 9 by by Antonio J. Garcia, Director
"...the debut CD of The Former Champions, "Now With Atomic Energy!" (Courthouse CH 1106). The band's name may fool you into thinking these musicians have decades of experience behind them. Frankly, a good listen to this CD will fool you into thinking the same thing. This CD sounds absolutely terrific compositionally, soloistically, and production-wise. That would be a superb accomplishment for any bunch of musicians; but given the youth of this band, you have to send them an extra salute. VCU Jazz guitarist Matt Walton and VCU Greater Richmond High School Jazz Band saxophonist Matt Zavitz (from Patrick Henry High School) team up with bassist Dave "Dickie" Watkinson and drummer Geoff Bakel to perform original works. VCU Jazz pianist Donald Crawford pitches in on all but one selection. And the CD was recorded in Richmond in just one day! Catch these musicians around Richmond, together and separately. You'll be glad you did. - VCU Jazz E-News

"Jazz played sharp without sounding robotic and automated"

The Former Champions are a young jazz band based in Richmond, Virginia who describe themselves as contemporary, original, experimental, and progressive. The band (Matt Walton-guitar; Geoff Bakel-drums; David Watkinson-bass; Mathew Zavitz-saxophone; with special guest Donald Crawford on piano) explore all of these elements equally and evenly, without trying to be too much of any one thing at any given time. The music on Now With Atomic Energy! (Courthouse) is contemporary, but not smooth, I would say they are the kind of group who could easily find a home on the ECM label. Walton's guitar work has hints of Pat Metheny and John Scofield, with a bit of Wes Montgomery thrown in (as he shows in "March Of The Nada Babas", while saxophonist Zavitz is reminiscent of Michael Brecker or Eric Leeds. They can play traditional jazz, go insanely crazy in the next segment, and then throw in some mid-70's funk (as they do in "Face Plant") or a few Latin influences. The diversity may throw some people off, but again they incorporate these sounds evenly to show what they're about, and what they're about is playing sharp without sounding robotic and automated. Quite exceptional.
-John Book
- Music For America

"For a debut album, this one sets The Former Champions in position to hold the heavyweight crown in the world of jazz."

Now With Atomic Energy!, from The Former Champions, is a stately example of using big band instruments correctly so listeners can literally feel each and every track. The band hails from Richmond, Virginia, and utilizes progressive and untried tones on many of the tracks. All the instruments are played so superbly and in varying fashion, that each song is unique in its own way. “The String Theory” has drums pummeling alongside smooth piano and percussion play. Yet, the real superstar of this track is the saxophone player who wails away and gives this track a true jazz stamp. On “A Land Whose Sun Is Colored Differently Than Our Own,” there is sprightly guitar work, mild drumming, gentle percussion play as well as temperate piano work. The sax makes yet another appearance, making this song incredibly danceable and one listeners’ might hear on an upcoming episode of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. “Shapes Of Things To Come” has cool guitar play where one can envision the guitarist calmly strumming away. There is also fluid piano, percussion and drum play. The silken sax play here makes this song one that might be heard at an out of the way jazz club that is only known to a few people, but where the music is superb. On “Two Tickets,” drum and guitar invade the intro. Then bass enters the equation, and then the sax player lets loose. The intense sax play coincides with the drum play and gets concentrated for a bit, but then as the percussion wanes, so does the sax. But this doesn’t dim one’s attraction to this song. “House Fire” opens with an extremely long note from the sax player imitating the alarm that sounds when an inferno erupts. Yet this sound isn’t as harsh as the real thing, and segues into the rest of the song wonderfully. Then, the drums boom and nimble percussion joins in for a song that starts out with zest, but calms down a bit for a graceful tone. Now With Atomic Energy!, from The Former Champions, is a fitting title for an album that simmers and thunders in spots, yet also has a calm, regenerative feeling about it. For a debut album, this one sets The Former Champions in position to hold the heavyweight crown in the world of jazz.
-Sari N. Kent
Reviewer's Rating: 9
- Celebrity Cafe


Full Length CD "Now With Atomic Energy!"
Released 3/20/07 on Courthouse Records
Currently being played across the country on various college, indie, and jazz radio stations as well as streaming internet radio, XM, and Sirius.



The Former Champions are a modern progressive band hailing from Richmond, Virginia. Described as creative, fresh, and powerful, The Former Champions contains previous members of the bands: PuddleDuck, Homemade Bread, and 51 Pegasus. The recent addition of 18 year old Saxophone phenom Matthew Zavitz has been a welcome one, allowing the band to delve into new territory, weaving together crisp progressions with mixed-meter groves to shake up the listener, invoke emotion, and keep things unconventional while remaining quite accessible. Always changing the stage show and adding new original material, one never knows exactly what they will hear or see at a Former Champs' show. The band has been known to perform accompanied by a pair of authentic belly dancers, a live artist painting a canvas, or to change the sound a bit by adding inspiring musicians. Raw, innovative, and at times mysterious, this is a band not to be missed.