5 questions with Matt White about ‘Worlds Wide’ jazz CD

Matt White keeps on hitting new, higher notes, in multiple realms as a musician and educator.

The professional trumpeter and composer, and for Coastal Carolina University, its coordinator of jazz and commercial music, and director of ensembles, has released his second CD with the Super Villain Jazz Band, “Worlds Wide,” on Ear Up Records.

White, a married father living in Pawleys Island, with a second child on the way, fielded some questions about the team efforts that went into making “Worlds Wide,” composing its nine numbers, and getting back together with friends to paint a picture for listeners with instrumental expressions about enchanting places, all through notes, rhythms, and moods in the melodies. Read more about White, a former session musician in Nashville, Tenn., and Miami, at www.mattwhitejazz.com.

Q: When composing, arranging and playing music inspired by locales such as lovely St. Helena Island, near Beaufort – and “The Black Valley,” my favorite number on the new CD – is such inspired music more about creating a visual for listeners, or sharing feelings that you brought home from such sites – or both?)

A: In this case, it’s both. With some of the compositions, I heard parts of the songs while I was at the place or experiencing it in real time. In others, it has more to do with reminiscing about the experience and inspiration coming from the feeling or “vibe” of the place. It’s very impressionistic, and that’s what I want to create for the listener. I hope that in knowing a little about the place, they might have the experience of being transported there themselves or understanding my impression or feeling of the place. That’s why it’s so important to give context about the stories of these compositions, because that allows the listener to understand my frame of mind and hopefully take their own impression away from it.

Q: With four years between Super Villain Jazz Band CDs, both recorded in the same studio in Music City, did you come to view this project as a family reunion per se, with two very special guests, and was this group effort easier, if not more natural, to pick up as a unit, the second time around?

A: Musically, it was much easier. From a writing perspective, my first album was a collection of songs that I wrote over many years. This time around, I was writing specifically for this band and the individual personalities of the group, so that, along with having a thematic element (places) in a narrower time-frame – four years – made the music feel more cohesive and connected. From a playing perspective, it was fun to hear how everyone grew and developed in that time as well. I think that maturity, plus having the opportunity to write specifically for everyone, meant that the music did a better job of capturing everyone’s individual voice.

Q: When mapping out this CD, with such a variety of tempos – even within one number – how extensive is the process to set the order of selections in a sequence that makes the whole album a journey for the listener?

A: The final track order is probably the fourth or fifth version I tried. I knew I wanted “Departure” to serve as an opening overture, because that song is all about the feeling – excitement and anxiety – of starting a new adventure. Putting it first was a risk because it’s much more typical to start with something uptempo and exciting. However, that song captured the mood of the album and made a strong statement about me as a trumpeter and composer. After that, it comes down to creating enough variety that the listener isn’t lulled into one type of experience. You’re trying to find a sequence where you’re not putting similar tempos or feels back to back, soloists, etc. and that can be a challenge. I really love all the performances on this album, so that makes it more difficult. Sometimes on a recording project you have a selection or two that aren’t as strong, so you might “hide” them in the order.

Q: Your liner notes for “Worlds Wide” thank a bunch of colleagues, a “who’s who” of musicians at Coastal Carolina University, including Steve Bailey – one of Myrtle Beach’s native sons, an innovator with the six-string, fretless bass, as heard on the new CD. With all your involvement with such a culturally enriching music department at CCU, and by coordinating jazz concerts to showcase aspiring students, how special is exposing youth to jazz and giving them an outlet to explore and expand the art?

A: It’s exactly what I need to be doing, and Coastal was, and continues to be, the perfect place for me as a teacher. I always wanted to build something and be able to shape it as an educator. When I met Steve for the first time, I knew I needed to work with him, because he felt the same way. I joke that he’s my long lost pedagogical brother. Seeing the growth of our department, particularly in jazz and commercial music, has been so rewarding because I know how hard we had to work to get to that point, and for many of these students, they have no experience with this music when they first arrive on campus. It’s certainly about cultivating musical skill, but watching the students develop empathy, creativity, and confidence during their time at Coastal has been incredibly rewarding and continues to motivate me as a performer and composer.

Q: What jazz concerts might the community see pop up on CCU’s performing arts calendar this autumn, and what has been your favorite experience or development you’ve helped shepherd through in the classroom and on stage?

A: My good friend Scott Routenberg, a pianist and award-winning composer, will perform with the CCU Jazz Ensemble this October, and we have some cool events in the works for the spring semester. We’ll also have S.C. native Chuck Cannon on campus that month performing with Steve Bailey, students, and me.

I’ve had some great moments as a teacher in five years at Coastal – developing our new concentration in commercial music and jazz, having jazz greats perform with our jazz ensemble, and developing five albums recorded and produced on campus. My fondest experience here – and in my entire career as a teacher – was mentoring our top jazz combo – now local band Oracle Blue – to a downbeat award and European Tour last summer. Watching how they grew on that tour, making adjustments and pushing one another to better musical results every performance, and seeing the bond they made as friends becoming family, is my proudest moment as a teacher.

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