Pianist. Composer. Improviser.
Pianist. Composer. Improviser.
Matt Piet is an improvising pianist, composer, and music director. Matt was born and raised in suburban Chicago, began his studies as a pianist and vocalist at age ten, and was a proficient classical pianist and accompanist by his early teens. Piet set aside his classical studies to focus on jazz, improvisation, and composition during his studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Piet returned to Chicago in 2014, and has since been an active participant in Chicago's rich jazz and improvised music scene. In addition to playing many ad hoc improvised performances as a leader and a sideman, he has three working trios: Matt Piet Trio, Four Letter Words, and the Rempis/Piet/Daisy trio. Piet works actively as a Music Director and accompanist throughout the Chicagoland area.
Four Letter Words - "Blow"
Oscar Jan Hoogland & Matt Piet - "Amsterdam/Chicago Duo"
Matt Piet - "silent moves, unseen"
Matt Piet & Ken Ge - "ashes/dreamspeak"
Matt Piet Trio - "Of Sound Mind"
Rempis/Piet/Daisy - "Cure for the Quotidian"
Matt Piet Trio - "Live at Constellation"
Matt Piet Trio - "at the Hungry Brain"
Matt Piet & Paul Giallorenzo - "WOOD, WIRE, AND STEEL"
Matt Piet/Raoul van der Weide/Frank Rosaly - "Out of Step: Live In Amsterdam"
Four Letter Words - "Radio Silence"
Rempis/Piet/Daisy - "Hit The Ground Running"
Matt Piet Trio - "Live at Elastic Arts"
Matt Piet & Tim Daisy - "strike one; strike too"
Matt Piet - "the bitter angles of our nurture"
(Astral Spirits Records)
(Clean Feed Records)
Chicago born pianist Matt Piet has been on my mind a bit lately. Ever since I reviewed the record Hit the Ground Running that he did with Dave Rempis and Tim Daisy, Piet has reinforced the wonderment of discovering something new and forcing you to take the time to go back and find as many records as you can.
Piet studied piano at a young age and was classically proficient before too long. His travels to Berkley opened his ears to improvised music and it was there that he decided to move back to Chicago to pursue it head on. He spent many days by himself locked away in a studio tuning his ear and putting the touches on what would become the style that inspired me to delve deep into the Matt Piet variations. If you want to go back even further, some of these solo piano improvisations can be found on his record silent moves, unseen.
The opening shot has been fired. Citing Paul Bley’s Footloose! as the inspirational jumping off point to how he wanted his debut musical statement to feel, Piet releases Of Sound Mind.
He wanted to utilize Albert Widman on bass and Julian Kirshner (Drums who you will see a lot more of later) as they were the ones he trusted to give a very important recording the best possible chance to match his vision.
Matt Piet - Piano
Albert Wildeman - Bass
Julian Kirshner - Drums
The final product is a success. It bounces between nods to the players who influenced him and to wholly original ideas that are fully realized; rare for a debut trio band leader. As much as his chosen rhythm compliment his style, they are just as important in their antagonistic role. On 'Mood Swing' for example, Kirshner swings the hell out of the kit and Wildeman jumps in right alongside luring Piet in to swing with them only to give him just enough rope before loosening the screws and throwing daggers for him to get around.
This sits as an amazing fully improvised debut which may as well be his calling card for the records to come but it does require multiple listens as layers upon layers will present themselves.
In my estimation, this would be the equivalent of me asking Ali to hit me on the chin a few times just to see if I have any staying power in the ring.
Not only is Piet up to the task, he contributes in such a powerful way that this trio is slowly becoming one of my top musical moments of the year. Lets face it, Rempis and Daisy are going to be great. They have a rich recorded history that has documented their progression into true masters of their instruments. They know by now what the other is thinking. The true magic here is Piet who steps in a spars with both of them. It is also fun to hear a piano get between Rempis and Daisy. The opening track, Red Glare, is a 37 minute burner where they feel each other out, quickly realize the strength and power of what each of them bring to the table and then spend the rest of the track just going for it. No Jazz, is time to experiment with extended technique, and as the shortest track creeps into the finale, Cerebral Pulse in Hi-Fi, you can feel something brewing and by the 2 minute you start to get a small taste of what it is. Daisy takes the edge off by switching to mallets and Piet plays around with repetitive phrases, while Rempis blasts off into the either. As the track approached the conclusion, and you realize that you are drained, you think to yourself that Matt Piet has made another powerful statement. Now he knows what can be, and how to get it.
And here he gets it. Piet brings drummer Julian Kirshner back into the mix and adds bassist Charlie Kirchen to the roster for these three live gigs. To be honest, I have not enjoyed a piano album as much as this since I was a kid and I stumbled across the Chick Corea Akoustic Band. I had a part time job working in a bookstore one summer and I could play whatever music I wanted. I had the cassette and whenever I opened the store and got past the security code, that tape went in the player. Understandably, their approach to the piano trio is very different, but that feeling of being in the presence of something special is still the same.
Matt Piet has so much to say and this becomes the perfect vehicle for it.
In a new jazz world of huge orchestras and electronic experimentation, Piet manages to carve out three amazing records full of fresh ideas. A new message in an old medium. Everywhere throughout these records you can hear the influences from the players he studied like Misha Mengelberg, Craig Taborn and Cecil Taylor, but when he ditches the past and allows his muscle memory control the proceedings, his classical flares and acute improv senses take over and the real magic happens. There is an obvious progression both in execution and flow of ideas from Of Sound Mind to here. It really is everything you could want in a forward thinking trio.
Live at the Constellation begins with the fitting song title 1. The statement. It is full of arcs and quieter moments where the three players demonstrate their abilities to listen and talk. The record expands on moments that cook and when a heavy hand is needed to pound out a repetitious phrase, it appears. Real attention grabbing work.
At the Hungry Brain a more mature still version appears. It starts with a bass and drum line and before Piet attacks it with precision ivory strikes, you are already a part of this exciting world. The rhythm section is a little more prevalent on this one as they are given a little more space to stretch their ideas.
As if we have gone full circle, Live at Elastic Arts begins with a track called 1. This record delves back into the long form as the group who are full of gas, explode out of the gate with speed and nimble fingers but soon changes gears with a bowed bass and a very expressive piano narrative. Three very solid records to establish this trio as a new force.
Matt himself describes this record as “pianistic ear candy” for those who care to listen. I care to listen and it is just like candy.
This album forced me to really sit and think about what goes through a musician’s mind when he sits down at a piano and looks across the stage to see only one other person sitting down at a piano. Obviously there was something that brought them together such as a mutual respect or an insane challenge. So as the first notes are struck and the musician’s put their heads down, what are they hearing?
Is it an extension of their fingers, or their ideas that are one step ahead of what we can hear?
Wood, Wire and Steel is split into three parts with titles chosen to emphasize the fact that there are only 2 voices here. (1+1, Two, and Too) The first track is a feeling out process and the title kind of alludes to that 1+1, still individuals playing together. This all changes in a hurry on the follow-up track, Two.
This is an example of two musicians getting so comfortable with each other that it becomes impossible to tell them apart. Are you finishing your thought or are you finishing mine? Did I just play what you thought or are you reading my mind? As Matt alluded to in the Bandcamp notes for this recording, it has a lot to do with instinct which is demonstrated on the closer Too. It can sometimes get a little overwhelming when 2 great players hammer idea after idea at you so the last track is really refreshing as the tempo slows to a pace where there is nowhere to hide. This results in pure beauty and a tangible respect for each other and the instrument.
So after a week of listening almost exclusively to Matt Piet, I was looking forward to listening to this one as Tim Daisy, one of my favourite percussionists gets tom play with Piet one on one. So, what happens when the piano gets played hard and heavy like a drum with Daisy sitting next to you? The result? Well, you are not bored, that’s for sure. Piet opens the lid and with the inside and outside of the piano top work with, he develops a new language for himself which in turn becomes a different type of agitator for Daisy. As you would imagine, not a problem for him.
Daisy has been working on a new language for a while now himself and some of that makes an appearance here. Not that he needed any help as his formidable expressive language was powerful enough, radios and loops and other creative uses for his kit add plenty of spice to this record.
At the 12 and a half minute mark of the opener, laissez-faire, the roles are reversed. Piet supplies the percussive elements to the narrative as Daisy melodically makes his way around his set up.
Track 2, the empathy and the entropy, starts with the least amount possible. In a good way. Its a slow build. Then out of nowhere, Piet comes at you with a killer passage followed by another killer passage. This get Daisy really going and the rest of the track is just magic.
You can tell from the opening notes that there is a new world vision happening here. Van Der Weide is a monster and if there is anyone who can match that intense beginning, its Frank Rosaly. Its like when you stick your face out the window of a fast car and you realize that it is more difficult to breathe than you thought. Rosalyn and Weide hit the groove halfway into Step to the Music giving Piet a chance to carve out a few frequencies of his own.
The 25 minute track, However Measured or Far Away, allowed me some time to think about why a like this music so much. I think its about the discovery. I’ve joked about how I am saving classical music until I get a little older so I will have something to look forward to. Looks like I may have to be pretty old if I keep finding gems like Matt Piet. And it just goes to show, if it wasn’t for my history with Tim Daisy, I wouldn’t have found Matt Piet, and you can see where that got me. Now, i can say, if it wasn’t for Matt Piet, I wouldn’t have found Raoul Van Der Weide, who just took me head first out of my contemplation by trying to rip the strings off the bass. First he treats his bow like a light sabre and now you can hear the wood from his bass cry. Rosaly rolls in the thunder and the storm continues.
The music here is now music. It resonates, it sings, its enjoyable, its complex and with Piet getting better with every release, the future is, well, nobody knows, because it will be created in the present on a stage with a man sitting behind a piano looking up and seeing other musicians and wondering, so, what are we going to do next???
By Peter Margasak 10.21.16
One important measure of any musical scene is whether it sustains its energy and depth. The Chicago jazz and improvised music scene has endured plenty of defections in recent years, such as guitarist Jeff Parker decamping to Los Angeles or cornetist Rob Mazurek relocating to Marfa, Texas—serious blows to the community here—but things keep rolling on even as tastes shift. A steady stream of new players has long been crucial to giving Chicago its artistic potency, and the best of those players inject enough personality and creativity to push things in new directions. I've been noticing a new wave of players in the last couple of years who are doing just that, whether it's the piano trio Rooms or the guitarist Tim Stine. More recently I've been made aware of the pianist Matt Piet, who grew up in Palos Park; six months ago I'd never heard of him, but now I can't stop listening to the new recording with a trio featuring bassist Albert Wildeman and drummer Julian Kirshner that he released today.
Of Sound Mind (Amalgam Music) is a fully improvised session, but the performances are clearly rooted in jazz. All three musicians give the work a hearty sense of propulsion, and Piet is a melodic player, but his tunefulness is thrillingly shaken by a rhythmic volatility and a fractal sense of phrasing. I'll admit I was a bit skeptical when I saw the cover shot, which pictures Piet, hand on chin in a pose of self-conscious contemplation, but the music has kept me coming back, reminding me of the quicksilver attack of Cecil Taylor's music in the late 50s and early 60s. The trio is exceptionally loose and nimble, moving with impressive agility and responsiveness. It's doubly exciting to hear a new pianist locally; apart from veterans like Jim Baker and Paul Giallorenzo, as well as Rooms keyboardist Dan Pierson, Chicago's improvised music scene feels chronically short of pianists. The entire album is a treat, but below you can check out a piece called "The Dr. Will See You Now," which contains a beguiling range of attacks, moving from a wobbly ballad feel at the start to a torrent of tumbling motion, with plenty of asides and explosions in between. Piet will celebrate the release of the new album with a performance on Saturday at Constellation. He'll be joined by Kirshner and bassist Charlie Kirchen (of Rooms), who subs for Wildeman.
By Budd Kopman 9.30.16
Pianist Matt Piet is most definitely a thinking man's player, roughly on a par with Ron Stabinsky (see Free for One), but with less notoriety (at least for now). Appearing as a member of the cooperative group Four Letter Words on Blow, he seemed to drive the music with a strong, clear musical personality.
Of Sound Mind is his recording debut as a leader, and is intended as a major statement of intent. The instrumentation is that of a piano trio and includes Albert Wildeman on bass and Julian Kirshner on drums; however, this music is anything but that of a traditional piano trio.
What we have is five tracks of free improvisation where each player is basically an equal, with Piet mostly leading the proceedings, but allowing the music then to go where it may, creating the overall impression is that of a very tight group with extremely sharp musical reflexes. While the music does not "swing," (although "Onward and Upward" teasingly feints so in its opening measures) many times a pulse of sorts emerges; there are no obvious harmonic progressions, and yet the music feels grounded and not atonal. Each track does end up with a musical identity that becomes apparent after repeated listens.
Piet's playing is full of energy, direction and intensity, which is matched by that of Wildeman and Kirshner. This is music that is meant to closely listened to and actively followed. While the flow of "free improvisation" cannot be predicted, which is part of its allure, each track's development feels completely natural and at times inevitable. The music breaths by how it changes in density, and following its ebb and flow is a major factor in staying in touch with a track's developmental arc, with each player affecting the density in his own way, singly and in various combinations. Time, as measured by how dense the music is at the moment, might slow down here or there, but the concentration and purposefulness never flags.
In the end, this is a highly rewarding listening experience and Of Sound Mind contains fascinating and engrossing music with much to say.
Piet and the trio are sure to be heard of more in the future.
By Budd Kopman 6.1.16
Four Letter Words is a trio consisting of tenor saxophonist Jake Wark, pianist Matt Piet and drummer Bill Harris, and Blow is their highly intelligent, extremely intense and deeply rewarding debut recording.
As usual, labels are almost useless. Their music manages to sound quite free while simultaneously being organized around motifs, if not full melodies. Aural imagery is strongly projected, with each track exploring a particular area of emotional complexity as well as creating an almost concrete listening space.
Piet sounds like the leader; his playing is very strong, particularly his left hand, which supplies the bottom normally given to the bass. His compositions make up half of the eight tracks. Wark's saxophone always has a high- pressure feel to it in its fullness and projection, even when he is not playing loudly. Harris is recorded back in the mix, but he is always felt, if not heard, as an equal voice in music that does not have, for the most part, a steady groove.
The album has a clearly conceived arc, with the short title tune, "Blow," beginning and ending the album. The word "blow" has many meanings (listed in the liner), with the most obvious here being play an instrument, not necessarily a horn. A concise compendium of Piet's compositional methodology and the band's sound, the tracks end before ever seeming to get going.
The interior tunes are all long (seven to over nine minutes) intense explorations, with the band in the end creating a recognizable sound, despite the differing emphases of each track. The middle three tracks, "Lugubrious" (Harris), "I Heard You Singing In A Tree" (Piet) and "The Vampire" (Wark) could be thought of as the core of the album, or at the very least that which is representative of the group.
The music on Blow can pin you back in your seat one moment and then turn on a dime to become beautiful. It is at turns funny, dangerous, overwhelming and in the end very rewarding listening for anyone who cares to take the plunge and immerse themselves in the sound world of Four Letter Words.
By Philip Coombs
First thing I do is sharpen a pencil. Then I open a notebook to a fresh page and run my hand over it feeling the smoothness and unbound potential for the last time. Next comes the title written at the centre of the top of the page, thus spoiling the crisp white, Hit the Ground Running. Next I write out the players and their instruments, which will likely get integrated into the review as opposed to just stating them in list form.
Dave Rempis (Tenor and Alto Saxophones)
Matt Piet (Piano)
Tim Daisy (Drums)
Next comes the label it was released on, Aerophonic and any relevant info I can did up like, its Rempis’ label and it was recorded live at Elastic Arts in Chicago January 21st, 2017.
Okay enough of that, time to get to work. Usually at this point, I hit play on whatever devise the track was recorded on and wait for the music and the words to come. SO with pencil at the ready and my structure in place I hit play on this record and wait for whatever comes at me.
It starts beautifully enough with a fractured melody from Piet and an equally matched rhythm from Daisy. They play around with this for a minute and a half to start the opening track, ‘Long Night Ahead’ until Rempis enters the equation with a soaring sax line that elevates the track to such a height that I could only do one thing. Put the pencil down. I could wait for the words to come for this one, but I would be waiting for quite some time. Today I’m a fan.
Only once the shock of this record started to wear off and I started to hear what they were doing and the constant joy of this track allowed me to keep my pencil in my hand, could I begin to extrapolate how good this track is. It is expertly recorded which allows each player to be expressive and contribute to the over all aural palate with every subtlety captured.
Each player is allowed to express where they are now in their jazz thinking but still have the foresight and self control to propel the track and calm the track whenever it is needed.
One of my favourite tracks of 2017.
‘Keep Alert’ the second and last track on the record, is equally as potent with the players expanding and compressing all over the place. The structure on this track is a little more familiar with each getting a more traditional solo space and neither of them are wasted.
And as if it couldn’t get any better, there is a humanitarian side to this recording. All proceeds go to “Refugee One, a local Chicago-based organization that creates opportunities for refugees fleeing war, terror, and persecution to build new lives of safety, dignity, and self-reliance.” Quote taken from their press release.