Matt Shulman: The Next Big Thing
“ We are doing our art and we are doing what feels right. We are out there doing our best to resonate on a high frequency and bring this music that we feel is important to people. ”
Trumpeter Matt Shulman has been hailed by The New York Times as, "A new voice from jazz's emerging generation. His style is thought by cohorts of fans to be an amalgamation of Miles Davis and Radiohead. He is an up-and-coming virtuoso, comparable to a modern day Chet Baker with a far-seeing vision. Down Beat Magazine has called his signature sound, "Zen-like, a sound which consists of sincere, intimate vocals and ethereal multiphonics. His approach to the trumpet is one of a pioneer.
Classically trained by Mark Gould of New York's Julliard School, he made his debut as a featured guest soloist with the New York Pops Orchestra in 2002, and was named Jazz Artist of the Year in 2003 at the Independent Music Awards. His influences include legendary jazz greats and many genres of modern day music; which have clearly resulted in the successful creation of an exclusively original sound. Apart from reinventing the notion of what sound we can expect to hear from a trumpeter, he is making strides as an inventor. He developed the ShulmanSystem for the trumpet, a device for eliminating damaging embouchure pressure and body tension. His system is endorsed by his peers.
Katrina-Kasey Wheeler caught up with the innovator to discuss his sound and his release, So It Goes (Jaggo/Universal, 2007).
All About Jazz: You were born into a musical family.
Matt Shulman: Yes, my dad plays the violin and my mother plays the piano; they are both classical musicians. I started on their instruments at an early age of around three or four. There was a baritone horn in the house for some reason which is kind of like a small tuba or a huge trumpet; I played that in the fourth and fifth grade. At twelve years old, I switched to the trumpet. It just seemed like a more fun instrument and fit my personality a little more. I could play it very well right away, so I took to it naturally.
AAJ: Other than your classical influences, who were your sources of inspiration?
MS: Well there are always the obvious influences; Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown. I also got into Blue Mitchell once I went to music school; I went to the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio and I really got into his symmetrical, logical approach to melody, and that was great for me. I was also listening to pop music too, early on like Peter Gabriel and Sting. I also remember checking out AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors, a lot of stuff like that which also influenced me.
AAJ: You sing on your songs now, did you sing at all growing up?
MS: I actually did sing. The first song that I ever really wrote and performed was in high school and I wrote the song and arranged it for the high school big band. I ended up playing most of the piano part and singing the lyrics, and I had a flugelhorn player play the melody along with my voice. I then got up and took a trumpet solo, so there were definitely the beginnings of the style that I have kind of come into my own with now.
When I went to music school, I went along with the curriculum that a lot of the jazz schools had established, which was to learn straight-ahead jazz. When I moved to New York I was definitely deep into that scene for awhile, getting calls to do a lot of that stuff, and some commercial stuff as well. I got a call to play in the house band for Saturday Night Live. Skitch Henderson was running the New York Pops Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. He had heard me and had me solo with the Pops Orchestra. That was a great experience.
I have been expanding and evolving pretty much non-stop. The music conservatory years were great for studying music and then you move to a city and live life and you start to have experiences and you continue to expand and grow. I feel that the singing is kind of a crossover thing that I have gotten to, where I am playing jazz with sort of a hybrid feel with some alternative rock and singer/songwriter influences. It is really a turn from my initial impetus, as it is an evolution.
AAJ: Well I would say it is an inspired turn; your music is unquestionably unique. How did you come to play the trumpet and sing simultaneously?
MS: That is something that not many trumpet players do at all. Some trombone players have done it over the years. One player known in the brass community is Albert Mangelsdorf. He is kind of an obscure, European, avant-garde trombone player. There is a little more room in the mouthpiece and in the tubing, also you can sing with your normal voice and it matches the octave with the trombone.
But the trumpet is a higher pitch and it is a smaller instrument, with a smaller amount of room in the mouthpiece. It takes a lot of control to finagle both the vibrational impulses of the trumpet and singing through the horn at the same time, so I think that is a challenge. It depends on the pitch one wants; I use a falsetto voice and that blends really well with the instrument. A trombone friend of mine showed me the technique when we were on tour when he was using the technique, and I said, "Wow that is interesting! And he said, "Yeah, I wonder what would happen if you used the high voice with the trumpet. I did it and it was really cool, I kind of got this pop!