Matthias Lupri: Shadow of the Vibe
Maintaining His Own Focus
Unlike some players who pay their dues working under the auspice of more senior players, Lupri has devoted his energy to developing his own craft his own way from the beginning. That's not to say he didn't do his share of lounge gigs working the standards book. I was also doing a lot of local gigs while I was in college," explains Lupri, "playing restaurants, any kind of gig I could get to learn how to play, doing the Real Book tunes. I had a steady gig at a café every summer for three-four days a week with a trio, just doing whatever I could do to learn to get my thing together.
"I've been mainly focusing on my own career from day one," Lupri continues. "I did do other sessions when I was at Berklee, and I have done other sessions since, here and there, but in terms of how many hours there are in a day and wanting to stay focused and not get side-tracked, I really turned down a lot of stuff and said, 'I just really want to do this.' I find when I start doing too many other projects I don't get done what I want to get done musically. And you also want to live a life outside music to a degree, so you can bring it back to your music. So there's something to be said about having time off and just enjoying life too. Trying to make it all work is an ordeal; balance is the tough thing, but that's what it's all about. I'm a lot happier now creating my own little world."
And while his jazz vernacular has definitely continued to grow, coming from a rock and roll drumming background, Lupri is also influenced by fusion music. "We had a fusion band called Stripes," Lupri explains, "that was a lot of fun and we did that for years, a real diverse international band of friends from Berklee. It's funny, in fact, I've been playing fusion from day one when I started playing the vibes, as well as straight-ahead music; there have always been these two worlds going on. And they sort of crisscross back and forth. I had that fusion band, Stripes before I started playing more straight-ahead stuff, and if you look at the popularity of the time, coming to Berklee in the early 90s when the new bebop renaissance was starting again, it was impossible to get a gig with a fusion group. And so I was somewhat forced to play more straight ahead - not that I minded, I loved doing that stuff too, but I tended to veer more to the fusion and, while I've been playing it since that point it just hasn't been recorded. But my first record, Window Up Window Down , was definitely more straight ahead, with Sebastian de Krom on drums, who is in Jamie Cullum's band now, and a saxophonist named Timo Verbole. Tim didn't have the chops that a lot of players had but he sure had this really beautiful tone. It was kind of reminiscent of the Stan Getz/Ben Webster thing."
And while some young artists would start out by interpreting tunes from the Great American Songbook, Lupri was already committed to pursuing his own writing. Looking back at Lupri's four releases there's nary a standard to be found. "Going back again into the history of why I started playing vibes," Lupri explains, "I said that when I was in the studio playing drums I'd come in and everyone was contributing music except me, and that was what made me want to go to school to study and learn how to write music. And from that point I realized I wanted to learn how to write music, to create my own music. That's what led me to the vibes, and to this day I'm really more inspired to create my own art via my own pieces of music than play standards. I love playing standards too, but for me there is this other level that I want to go to with my compositions that can't be reached via standards."
Same Time Twice
Lupri's next record, Shadow of the Vibe , was most notable for the appearance of saxophonist George Garzone, but it was with '02's Same Time Twice where Lupri really upped the ante, enlisting a number of semi-established up-and-comers whom he had met at Berklee, including guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Rueben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. "Well, they were at Berklee when I got there in '90," Lupri says. "I knew them from that point but I never actually played with them because I was just starting to get into the music. I knew of them and was following what they were doing since I got to Boston. Kurt was playing in Gary Burton's band and I was always checking out Gary's band so I caught Kurt there a lot. Larry Grenadier was in the band at the time as well, and Turner was here but leaving around that time. Reuben Rogers came a bit later actually, and was here until '97. Back then he was here in Boston playing around town. So I knew all these guys from that point, but never had the ability to play with them.