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.
Matt’s latest solo release on Justin Time Records, Mirror Image (2019), has
received wide coverage and critical acclaim in Canada and the US. An organic reconciliation
of his jazz and classical alter-egos through both original compositions and
innovative arrangements of classical pieces, Mirror Image is a uniquely personal
musical journey. According to Radio-Canada’s Ici Musique, ”Montreal pianist Matt
Herskowitz offers a disc that is a perfect balance between his classical training
and his jazz career. The album evokes a sense of grandness in its beauty and
simplicity. The music is gentle and magnificent.”
Matt's 2012 live solo release for Justin Time Records, Matt Herskowitz Upstairs, includes his arrangements of classics from Gershwin to Schumann to Dave Brubeck to originals by Herskowitz, including 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, also on Justin Time Records, 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.”
Matt’s 2015 release, Bach XXI (Avanti Classic), is an album of his original arrangements of selected pieces by JS Bach with his jazz trio and internationally acclaimed classical violinist Philippe Quint. One reviewer described it this way: “The album is a set of fascinating jazz settings of well-known Bach works, the kind of skilled re-imaginings that make me smile, however they might have nonplussed old Johann Sebastian himself” (Jon Sobel, Blogcritics). The album was noticed by the producers of the BBC’s “Music Matters” program, who invited Matt to talk about his process for creating the innovative arrangements on the show’s “Spirit of Bach” segment.
In 2018 Justin Time released the Matt Herskowitz Trio album Forget Me Not: Homage to Lew Soloff. Originally released in 2005 and featuring Lew on four tracks, the new release honours the great jazz legend’s friendship and mentorship of the trio over many years, as well as his limitless generosity, wisdom and ability to make everyone have a crazy great time! This album, along with Upstairs and Matt’s 2006 solo release, Gabriel’s Message, featuring his original arrangements and compositions based on Christmas songs, were all nominated for Québec’s Félix award for “Best Jazz Album.”
His 2007 solo release, Matt Herskowitz Plays George Gershwin, featuring Matt’s original solo arrangements of the Concerto in F, Cuban Overture and Rhapsody in Blue, was nominated for Quebec’s prestigious Prix Opus, while his 2006 solo release, Gabriel’s Message, featuring his 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 on disc.”
Composer and Arranger
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.” Matt premiered his composition Undertow, a concerto for piano, electric bass, drums and orchestra loosely based on Bach’s 3-part Invention no. 9 in F minor, at the Köln Philharmonie with Absolute Ensemble, conducted by Kristjan Järvi. The performance was filmed and broadcast on Germany’s WDR television throughout Europe. On a North American tour stop in Toronto’s Koerner Hall in 2012, the Globe and Mail wrote of the piece: “Pianist Matt Herskowitz’s ‘Undertow’ took the F-minor Sinfonia, the spookiest of all the Inventions, and rode its sliding bass line through a secret-agent opening, a section of rugged math-rock that had me thinking of King Crimson, and a grand passacaglia that drew out the tragic implications of Bach’s original. It ended on the brink of a high tutti cadence, and I would have been happy to hear the whole 20-minute piece repeated right away.”
As an arranger, Matt has collaborated with many noted artists and producers. In addition to his hugely popular Bach à la Jazz, Matt and his trio were featured on Barry Manilow’s album In The Swing of Christmas (Hallmark, 2007, Arista/Sony, 2009), which was nominated for a Grammy award for “Best Traditional Pop Album”. 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 addition to his other projects, Matt is also half of the Montreal-based piano duo, Piano Chameleons. With acclaimed jazz pianist John Roney, the duo creates unique jazz arrangements of popular classical pieces. Their victims include Bach, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Schumann, Debussy, Grieg, Brubeck and Gershwin. Their debut album was released in October 2016 on Justin Time Records, and has received much critical praise in Canada.
Matt also records and performs with renowned Canadian violinist Lara St. John. Their first album together, Shiksa (2015, Ancalagon Records), features original compositions and arrangements based on traditional eastern European folk songs that Lara has collected throughout the years. She also commissioned Matt to compose a piece for the album, Nagilara, based on the famous Jewish folk song Hava Nagila. Shiksa has been enormously popular with both critics and audiences alike since its release in 2015. Their second album, Key of A, released this past April on Ancalagon Recores, features César Franck's hugely popular Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano and L.V. Beethoven's great "Kreutzer" Sonata. The duo's fresh new interpretations of these warhorses has already received rave reviews and sparked interest from National Public Radio in the US.
A graduate of the Juilliard School in New York and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Matt is originally from Rensselaerville, New York, and has made Montreal his adopted home since 1999.