SCRUTINY | Lara St. John and Matt Herskowitz Give Dazzling WMCT Season Opener

“Paru pour la première fois en 2005, le disque assez stupiéfiant du pianiste Matt Herskowitz est surtout un hommage au regretté trompettiste Lew Soloff. Ce dernier qui joua avec Frank Sinatra, Gil Evans, et plus encore Blood Sweat & Tears restera dans les mémoires comme l’un des musiciens les plus brillants. En dix plages, les moments d’émerveillement sont là. Si vous taquinez les arpèges, il est difficile de résister à Étude On The Days of Wine and Roses et Forget Me Not.” 5 étoiles.

English translation:

“Released for the first time in 2005, this rather stunning recording from pianist Matt Herskowitz is above all an homage to the late trumpeter Lew Soloff, who played with Frank Sinatra, Gil Evans and most notably Blood Sweat and Tears. He will remain in our collective consciousness as one of the most brilliant musicians of his time. There are wondrous moments in these ten tracks; if you peruse through them attentively, it’s difficult to resist Etude on the Days of Wine and Roses and Forget Me Not.” 5 stars

– Journal de Montréal


“There are always a few acts at the XRIJF that I’ve never heard of before the festival, but I can’t stop talking about after I’ve seen them. Pianist Matt Herskowitz is now on that list. Before describing him I want to say that I do hope the Steinway in Hatch Hall recovers from the (positive) pounding it took Saturday night. At some points in Herskowitz’ performance you could see it shaking. The concert had a title, “From Bach To Brubeck,” and along the way Herskowitz visited Chopin, Schumann, and other composers. The premise was the embodiment of Third Stream music: the fusion of jazz with classical music to create, in this case, a wild hybrid. What made the concert extraordinary was Herskowitz’s beyond-brilliant technique. He was, of course, capable of subtlety, but he was astoundingly adept at impossibly fast and intricate passages. He found them in Bach and Brubeck and also in a “Chopin etude” that he made up, seemingly based on the premise of Chopin as a jazz man. He also played the most wildly rhythmic rendition of Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm” that I’ve ever heard. At one point, toward the end of the concert, on a tune by the late pianist, Michel Petrucciani, Herskowitz executed a two-handed fluttering chord passage that got faster and faster until it melted into a blur of hummingbird wings. After he lifted his hands, I swear the piano was still shivering with those notes.”

– City Newspaper, Rochester, NY (review of performance at Rochester Jazz Festival)


“Whether he’s playing power chords at the piano, executing a dazzling run, or working through a dense bit of improvised counterpoint, he never seems to be showing off; instead, everything has some narrative logic or emotional purpose.”

– Tablet Magazine (on Jerusalem Trilogy)


“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 back then.”

– Dave Brubeck (on Jerusalem Trilogy)


“You don’t have to love classical or jazz to love Jerusalem Trilogy, you just have to love music.”

– The Lee County Courrier, Tupelo, Mississippi


“As Jacques Loussier cautiously jazzed up the music of Johann Sebastian Bach in the 60s, he would probably not have dreamed that his concept would lead to such explosive and innovative settings as those of Matt Herskowitz… he brings the classical-meets-jazz genre to a new, highly virtuoso level.

With his trio, Matt Herskowitz dedicated himself mainly to the works of Bach and Chopin. In combining Latin-American rhythms, boogie, jazz, and groove he exposed the music in a completely new light. The trio’s dynamic performance at the Jazz Festival in Bonn in 2016 drove the audience to rapturous applause.”

– Deutschlandfunk Jazz Live


 “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.”… “There and elsewhere Herskowitz calls on various world music and cultural traditions – Latin, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Harlem Renaissance – to deepen the flavors and textures of the music. But while the album does repay close listening, it doesn’t require a studious approach.”… “Herskowitz’s piano work is especially affecting in a passionate selection from the St. Matthew Passion. An improvisatory-sounding section sustains the harmonies and moods of the source. In the same way, the exaggerated jumpiness of his take on the Double Violin Concerto in D minor, featuring Lara St. John on second violin and boiled along by the excellent rhythm section of Mat Fieldes (bass) and David Rozenblatt (drums), sets off Bach’s melodies and counterpoint nicely.

Bach continues to delight and awe us, whether played straight or skewed. Herskowitz’s arrangements and his small ensemble’s performances get very much into the spirit of the pieces, and this is a joy to hear – a joy to the world, you could even say – that gives the recordings the flavor of live performances. Bach XXI should appeal to classical music aficionados as well as jazz fans and lovers of crafty and well-crafted music of all kinds.”

– Blogcritics (on Bach XXI)


“The Matt Herskowitz Trio Jams Out the Classics

It seems that about half of the lucky 150 or so people who saw the Matt Herskowitz Trio last night at the Yamaha Piano Salon had been at his Naumburg Bandshell concert last August that got rained out about halfway through. This was a makeup show of sorts, not heavily advertised, although the promoters took care to tell the audience at the series’ next concert about it. Which if everybody had showed up, would have filled the room to capacity many times over. Herskowitz is one of those rare rugged individualists whose music defies categorization. Is it jazz? Classical? Jewish music? All of the above, and more. He started out by making jazz out of Bach, surfed out Chopin and ended by taking Gershwin to its logical jazz extreme, with the most interesting material, his own, sandwiched in the middle. Academics call this stuff third-stream; crowds call it fun.

Much as Herskowitz has the kind of fluid, seemingly effortless technique that it takes to play Bach well, it was the jamming that everybody wanted to hear, and he delivered plenty of that with both fire and wit, respectively, on a selection from the Well-Tempered Clavier and then an amusingly loungey version of the Air on a G String. Emcee Midge Woolsey suggested during the intermission that the composers Herskowitz interprets so irreverently would probably enjoy what he does, and she’s right: Bach was no stranger to improvisation, for instance, and the others had to come up with their repertoire one way or another, jamming out ideas until they made enough sense to transcribe.

The highlight of the show was an arrangement of several themes from Herskowitz’ own Jerusalem Trilogy. Through torrid torrents of Middle Eastern tinged chromatics, unselfconsciously warm, bucolic interludes and noirish bustle, Herskowitz painted a complex and compelling picture. As they switched to Chopin’s Sonata no. 2, they hit a surf music interlude and then Rozenblatt switched to a wry disco beat as the bass ran a wary minor-key hook over and over, anchoring Herskowitz’s alternately bluesy and acidically chromatic runs.”

– New York Music Daily (review of performance at Yamaha Piano Salon, New York City)


“Local pianist Matt Herskowitz certainly had the audience in the palm of his hand at the Gésu during his show on Wednesday evening. When he said, apologetically, that they would do one more original (and non-Gershwin tune) in the set, someone cried “Do as many as you want!” To some extent, though, everything they did was original. Although most of the set was Gershwin’s music, it was always couched in a musical setting positively devoid of Gershwin except for the melody. But the melody is all you need sometimes… in effect, updating them for the post-hip hop, post-funk world without losing a jazzy feel.”

– The Gazette, Montreal (review of Gershwin Reinvented show at the 2008 Montreal International Jazz Festival)


“From the second piece, the master pianist Matt Herskowitz amazed the hall, performing several solos, wondrously harmonized, in Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm, Variations for Piano and Orchestra’. The listener did not need to be a classical music aficionado or a jazz scholar to appreciate the performance.”

– Le Quotidien, Saguenay, QC


“…Matt Herskowitz is one of these virtuosos who oscillate between written music of the European tradition and modern jazz. Why choose when it works?”

– La Presse, Montreal


“Jerusalem Trilogy is his most ambitious offering, at the crossroads of different musical worlds: classical, jazz, and World music, all with a level of technique and sophistication that puts him in his own class… in short, a very wide sound palette, at the service of completely unbridled creativity. It is a pleasure to listen to.”

– Radio-Canada Sherbrooke


“When the composer and jazz pianist Matt Herskowitz was writing “Concerto Grosso,” he didn’t set out to create a work in that form, but eventually decided to include a solo part for each instrument in the jazz- influenced and contrapuntal piece, which was given its premiere here. Mr. Herskowitz was the only one to improvise his solo, “but everyone has to groove,” he said, while introducing the work. “If they can’t groove, they can’t play the piece.” His imaginative, virtuosic solo certainly proved the most vibrant and distinctive in the entertaining piece, which traversed a range of moods.”

– The New York Times


“In the completely packed Kamani auditorium, pianist Matt Herskowitz started the concert with an original composition which he had written for a musical theatre production. The lilting musical notes created an image of a girl standing all alone, crying and calling her lover to return. It was the best start for the evening which was followed by Indian compositions.”

– Deccan Herald, New Delhi, India

“It’s probably not an overstatement to say that Herskowitz is likely the most brilliant and creative musician between classical and jazz today.”

– Die Alternative, Germany (on Gabriel’s Message)


“Bold. Provocative. Thoughtful. Imaginative. Spiritual.”

– Albany Times Union (on Gabriel’s Message)



“One goes from listening intently to the artist’s skill with a keyboard to being swept up in the emotion it produces; it’s uplifting and sad at the same time.”

– The Jewish (on Jerusalem Trilogy)


“The talent of a great artist is the search to allow all music to go beyond its limits, to revisit works in order to give them a new dimension. This is what we were treated to on this Saturday in September with pianist Matt Herskowitz.”

– La Quinze Nord, les Laurentides, QC


“…technically flawless, light years advanced harmonically… Matt is a giant.”

– Dave Brubeck (on Gabriel’s Message)


“Pianist Matt Herskowitz’s ‘Undertow’ took the F-minor Sinfonia, the spookiest of all the Inventions, and rode its sliding bass line through a secret-agent opening, a section of rugged math-rock that had me thinking of King Crimson, and a grand passacaglia that drew out the tragic implications of Bach’s original. It ended on the brink of a high tutti cadence, and I would have been happy to hear the whole 20-minute piece repeated right away.”

– The Globe and Mail, Toronto (review of Matt’s performance of his piano concerto “Undertow” at Koerner Hall, Toronto)


“We hear the fusion between classical music and jazz trio improvisation, enrobed in airs of the Middle- East and Eastern Europe. All apparently disparate elements, yet beautifully woven together by the Montreal pianist. The disc is unique and irresistible.”

– Le Droit, Ottawa (on Jerusalem Trilogy)


“As an interpreter, Herskowitz revealed himself to be an extremely generous pianist, marvellously negotiating the curves, rhythmic variations and zones of shadow and light scattered throughout all the works. His percussive, muscular style – even virile – was perfectly suited to Gershwin.”

– Le Devoir, Montreal (review of solo Gershwin performance at Palais Montcalm, Québec City)


“Must we recall the mastery of this jazz pianist, who must first be considered an exceptional artist? Rhapsody in Blue, George Gershwin’s great classic, is superbly suited to the style of Matt Herskowitz, whose spectacularly virile attack, speed, intensity and precision of fingering perfectly serve this majestic work. The impression of improvisation remains in this piece – as it does for the three movements of the Concerto in F, as well as the Cuban Overture, which Herskowitz brilliantly arranged for solo piano. The Montreal pianist can be proud.”

– La Presse, Montreal (on Matt Herskowitz Plays George Gershwin)


“Herskowitz achieves here a triumph of resourcefulness, to the point where we – almost – forget the absence of the other 50 musicians … the rich thematic material, full of counterpoint and polyrhythms, permits Herskowitz to highlight his double-abilities as concert pianist and jazzman. The very fact that this album can be classified as both jazz and classical is a testament to its success – which is also, of course, Gershwin’s.”

– L’Express, Toronto (on Matt Herskowitz Plays George Gershwin)


“This sensitivity, musicality and originality provided us the most beautiful of gifts this November 28; virtuosity in its purest form, in all styles.”

– Journal de Prévost


“This is an album that will appeal to lovers of classical music. It is an album that will appeal to lovers of jazz. Indeed it is an album that will appeal to lovers of music.”

– (on Jerusalem Trilogy)


“Here’s an album that can be found in both the classical and jazz sections of the store. A complete pianist with irreproachable technique, Matt Herskowitz offers such an astonishing reading of this Gershwin repertoire that one forgets that he’s playing alone, without orchestra.”

– (on Matt Herskowitz Plays George Gershwin)


“Besides playing the inventive, thorny solo in ‘Purple Haze’, Matt Herskowitz, the group’s pianist, offered a stunningly beautiful solo in the Mingus classic ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,’ and an energetic piece of his own, ‘Serial Blues,’ in which a remarkably fluid jazz piano line squared off against ensemble contributions couched alternately in classic blues harmonies and a contrapuntal 12-tone setting.”

– The New York Times


“This was post-Miles Davis, post-Bill Evans, post-just-about-everyone stuff. Gershwin’s tunes were at the core of the music, even if you had to listen pretty hard at times, but the style was contemporary. Terrific fun.”

– Ottawa Citizen (review of Gershwin Reinvented concert for CBC radio)


“… (he is) a poet at the keyboard, putting his talents to the service of any form of music that shares his passion for exploration. A smoldering inner fire impels Matt Herskowitz to flout musical convention, creating a jazz that’s as enthusiastic as it is inventive.”

– Le Progrès, Lyon


“Pianist Matt Herskowitz made like Keith Emerson with a Chopin-meets-Little Richard solo piano jaunt.”

– Montreal Gazette (from review of Les Triplettes de Belleville show at the 2004 Montreal International Jazz Festival)


“In Chopin’s “Berceuse” and Ravel’s “Gaspard de la Nuit,” the fluidity of his scale work was effortless and light and sounded like streams of tinkling bells. His touch was as gentle as a feather. His expert pedalling allowed for technical clarity and his rhythm was precise.”

– The Post-Star, Glens Falls, NY


“Locked in a strange embrace with his piano, tender and aggressive at once, hands first in perfect synchrony, then suddenly abandoning one another into furious autonomy, (his playing) was fluid to the point of bursting.”

– St.Chamond, France


“He delivers hard-driving progressive bop, yet excels at soft and sensitive works… improvised lines breathe like brushstrokes on canvas, each note carefully selected and presented.”

– Cosmik Debris


“The release is completed by an exquisite account of the Glazunov Second Piano Concerto by the young American Matthew Herskowitz, by far the best performance on CD.”

– The Strad


“His pianism is formidably accomplished, with bristling clarity of articulation, a clipped rhythmic energy, commendable architecture and extreme musical directness and intelligence.”

– New York Concert Review


“Higher praise was owing Matthew Herskowitz for his noble, finely burnished interpretation of Beethoven’s Second Concerto… everything in this performance suggested that the Second is more than the 18th- century entertainment it is sometimes presumed to be.”

– Montreal Gazette


“Matthew Herskowitz, in Ravel’s Ondine, produced opaque sounds evocative of the now seldom-heard Erard pianos, thrilling in its quiet intensity.”

– The Guardian, Glasgow


…“extraordinary high-octane keyboard virtuosity”

– The West Australian


“…his is a much more energetic, driven, and probing style than that of most jazz pianists. In sum, he is a cultivated talent with an undeniably bright future in both musical worlds.”

– Classical Net