The art of being a sideman is a long honored tradition in this idiom’s history. Very rarely does someone come out of the woods and start leading bands. Usually there is a time for grooming and for a musician to discover their own voice in support of another artist. Louis Armstrong was part of King Oliver’s band before he rose to reach superstardom. Miles Davis was part of Charlie Parker’s band and Bird himself got his start under Jay McShann and later Earl “Fatha” Hines’ band. This rich tradition of honing the craft continues today and very few do it quite as well and as consistently as guitarist Matthew Stevens. We caught up with Matthew Stevens to get his thoughts on several notable projects he’s worked on in the past. Read below:

Still Casual – Walter Smith III 

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Revive: You recently released a video for “Processional,” which was a track featured in Still Casual. Did Walter ask you to write a song for the album?

Matthew Stevens: Walter did not ask me to write a song specifically for Still Casual, but he did ask specifically to record “Processional” once I told him I wasn’t going to record it on Woodwork. Walter was familiar with the song because we recorded it together in 2010 on a record of mine that never officially came out. It features Jamire Willliams, Milton Fletcher on organ, John Escreet and Walter. I’m sure it’ll see the light of day sooner or later, but when it came time to record again I had a whole new batch of material that I needed to get off my chest.

Chameleon – Harvey Mason

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R:This was one of my absolute favorite releases of 2014 and it was a who’s who of today’s scene. What was it like to work with a legend like Harvey Mason?

MS: Working with Harvey was a remarkable experience. He — like so many other truly great musicians — is wonderfully open-minded, humble, good-humored, generous of spirit, and encouraging to younger up-and-coming players. It felt loose since we recorded at his son Harvey Jr.’s studio in LA and had the time to massage the material and arrangements during the session. I was asked to do an arrangement of a Bobby Hutcherson song called “Montara” which I had a blast recording with Harvey, Jimmy Haslip, and Marc de Clive-Lowe.

Christian aTunde Adjuah – Christian Scott

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R: I had “Spy Boy/Flag Boy” on repeat because of those chords you dropped in the beginning. You’ve appeared on four different Christian Scott albums (including this), what was so different about Chrisitian Atunde Adjuah?

MS: That’s one of my favorite songs that Christian has written. Truth be told, it didn’t feel that different to me while recording it, given that Christian has such a strong personality and way that he approaches making music. Looking back though, it was essentially the antithesis to the way we recorded my favorite of his records, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow. That was recorded live off the floor at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio with no edits or overdubs. When we went to record Christian Atunde Adjuah, he was headed in the opposite direction; not so much aesthetically or in terms of his musical priorities, but rather in the way he constructed the album with a lot of layers and multi-tracking. There are some great improvised moments on that record, but to me it’s true strength lies in the way all the parts and layers fit together and compliment each other.

Favorite Moments On The Road With:

Esperanza Spalding

MS: So far it’s been very fun and rewarding and I’m looking forward to heading out for most of the summer with her new group. The new band has only done a handful of gigs so far, but last week in Boston we all had a great time going to hang at our old stomping ground Wally’s Jazz Cafe after the gig.


MS: We’ve been to Japan a few times with this group and from the moment we get there until the moment we leave there is a LOT of joking around. Jamire and Corey King are really hilarious and are both exceptional dancers. Vicente Archer and I are trying to get our moves together.

Catch Matthew Stevens lead his own band at Jazz Standard on Tuesday, May 26 as he celebrates the release of ‘Woodwork.’ Tix + info, click here.


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