Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Matt Herskowitz: Timing is Everything

I first met pianist and composer Matt Herskowitz by chance in an Amtrak dining car, travelling from NYC to Montreal in the winter of 2010. My partner Andrea noticed that there was someone writing music on his computer, so we struck up a conversation about the software he was using. Matt was very generous to take time off from his work, and to sit and discuss what he was creating. He invited the both of us to an upcoming performance. And our friendship has developed ever since.

Matt is the kind of guy who everybody wants as a friend. He never says "no" to going out and having a good time. He has a wonderful sense of humour and is as unpretentious as they come. Our lives have been enriched since we met him.

What a hell of a player! Way beyond exceptional, it was clear from the moment we heard Matt play that he was one of those extraordinary people born with extraordinary talent. A prodigy, and this is a word that I do not use very lightly.  I have discovered much about this great artist, and his humbleness about the people he has played and recorded with over the years. His formal training includes The Curtis Institute, Juilliard, and Manhattan School of Music, but he never brags about his accomplishments. Every now and then I learn of another musician he's collaborated with and think, "You played with WHO?"

He has played with Oliver Jones multiple times, including at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, and at the 2013 ADISQ Awards. He also frequently collaborates with saxophonist and composer Charles Papasoff.

Matt's arrangement of the Bach Prelude in Cm, which moves back and forth from classical to Jazz, was featured in the movie The Triplets of Belleville.

He's collaborated with Joe Zawinul of Weather Report, Belgian superstar Lara Fabian, and countless other artists and ensembles. Some of our favourite performances of his include this original composition, performed by Matt and the Absolute Ensemble, and his arrangement of Schumann's Piano Concerto in A Minor from the Bolgorod Musicfest in Russia:

Lately, Matt has been touring internationally with violinist Lara St John, promoting her album "Shiksa". They were recently featured on CBC radio Q as well as NPR's Tiny Desk:

He also performs and records regularly with John Roney in the duo Piano Cameleons.

I have had the good fortune of photographing Matt for his promotional use as well as in live concerts both in Montreal and NYC. Below are some of my favourites, as well as some outtakes from over the years.

Album cover at Upstairs Club.
With Daniel Schnyder at Bargemusic under the Brooklyn Bridge, with the skyline of Lower Manhattan in the background.

In the studio with Charles Papasoff.
Live at Di├Ęse Onze.
Using ambient lighting.
In front of iconic Montreal landmarks.
An outtake from Upstairs Club.
Goofing around during a shoot for Piano Cameleons.
Piano Cameleons.
Piano Cameleons.