Matt Savage – Welcome Home – Savage Records SAV0009, 55:07 ***:
(Matt Savage – piano; Bobby Watson – alto saxophone; Jeremy Pelt – trumpet, flugelhorn; Joris Teepe – bass; Peter Retzlaff – drums; also John Funkhouser – bass; Yoron Israel – drums, on tracks 1, 4, 5)
While Matt Savage is not quite the second coming of Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, or Bill Charlap, the onetime child prodigy certainly has talent, and may in time be a pianist to be reckoned with. His latest disc Welcome Home shows promise.
In this project, Matt Savage embarks on a musical voyage of self-discovery with thirteen of his own compositions all of which he has arranged for both a trio and quintet. In the latter he is joined by Bobby Watson a post-bop alto saxophonist, and Berklee College of Music alumnus Jeremy Pelt on trumpet and flugelhorn. The album has two themes; Country, then City (“Big Apple Suite”), and a coda of three tunes that reference his present location in Boston. Leading off the Country section, whose inspiration comes from a day at Savage’s organic farm in New Hampshire, are four trio tunes, while technically proficient, are mostly indistinguishable from one another, and could literally be a single piece. The fifth song” Night Falls” features the quintet but again is unremarkable in either theme or texture. All sound as if they were meant for a New Age radio station.
The City (“Big Apple Suite”) which is meant to give a sense of a day in New York City, starts with some promise in that “Big Apple Blues” is a solid, if unmemorable, blues line that provides a framework for both Watson and Pelt to stretch out to a limited degree. However, the next two cuts “The Night Goes On” and” The City Sleeps” apart from unison playing by the front line, do not offer anything new from a composition perspective. ”The City Is Alive” picks up the pace with a strong drum intro by Peter Retzlaff and then Watson and Pelt deliver a sense of occasion with interesting solos. The “Finale” offers a quote from George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” which is also a lead into “Big Apple Blues”. To some degree these musical quotations are unfortunate as they demonstrate, however briefly, what great compositions are all about. Of the remaining cuts, “Welcome Home (Boston)” shows flashes of piano invention that provide Savage a foundation to allow him to build and discover where he might evolve.
Matt Savage, who continues to carry the soubriquet ”child prodigy,” and has yet to grasp how to swing, is eighteen years old and studying at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Perhaps this type of vanity project might best be left until he has completed his musical education.
TrackList: Our Town; On The Farm; Picturesque; Seasons Change; Night Falls; Big Apple Blues; The Night Goes On; The City Sleeps; The City Is Alive; Finale; Inner Search; Welcome Home (Boston); You Are Here.
— Pierre Giroux