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 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)
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 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 IMusici 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 piece “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.
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 fpr “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 many rave reviews.
Matt also records and performs with renowned Canadian violinist Lara St. John. Matt invited her to perform on his 2010 album, Jerusalem Trilogy. The title track is a 3-movement piece that combines complex Arabic rhythms and grooves with soulful Jewish melodic writing in classical and jazz forms. Lara is perhaps the only violinist capable of seamlessly navigating through the stylistic hybrid and complex map of polyrhythms and compound meters to beautifully tell the story of the music. Lara then invited Matt to play on Shiksa, her album of original compositions and arrangements based on traditional eastern European folk songs. She also commissioned Matt to compose a piece for this album, Nagilara, based on the famous Jewish folk song Hava Nagila. The album has received many rave reviews since its release in 2015.
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.