“…so talented and innovative…a raving lunatic in the best way!”
~ Yo-Yo Ma (cellist)
“…a musician of super keen talent to keep your eyes and ears on…(Small’s music) is beautiful in both conception and execution, great playing and wonderful journeys.”
~ Terry Riley (composer/pianist)
“…one of the brightest young composer/performers out there…quite a unique writer and a skillful and imaginative player, he's a musician with a rare combination of talents."
~ Dave Douglas (trumpeter/composer)
“…beautiful music, beautiful playing.”
~ Edgar Meyer (bassist/composer)
“…great bass playing and great music... Terrific solo bass work as well.”
~ Richard Davis (bassist/composer)
“…wonderful playing and diverse compositions. Bravo!”
~ Mark Dresser (bassist/composer)
“…Small’s music doesn’t fit into an obvious category, but with solid roots in many musical traditions, it is an integration of old and new, encompassing visionary ideas that cross styles and genres.”
~ Robert Cole (Former Director, Cal Performances – University of California, Berkeley)
“… with a compositional voice that is outside a traditional stylistic orthodoxy, he has a boundless creativity and musical intelligence… a remarkably accomplished bass player, and hugely inventive composer and improviser (whose work is) beyond compositional boundaries in the way that such composers as Osvaldo Golijov and Edgar Meyer have each developed.”
~ Ara Guzelimian (Former Senior Director and Artistic Advisor to Carnegie Hall, Current Dean of The Juilliard School)
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Hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a gifted San Francisco bassist and composer whose alluringly original music draws on a rich range of classical, jazz and indigenous music,” Matt Small has been developing his own cutting-edge, multi-genre work in the Bay Area since 1997. With a deep dedication to his craft and an unrelenting spirit of curiosity, Small explores a wide variety of musical traditions while exercising “a strong aesthetic sensibility” (Down Beat Magazine). Small has found inspiration from a vast array of music, including jazz, experimental, popular, Western classical, and indigenous music styles from around the world.
To date, Small has performed at, and had his music presented by Carnegie Hall, The Monterey Jazz Festival, SF Jazz, Davies Symphony Hall, Banff’s International Music Festival, Joe’s Pub, The Knitting Factory, Yoshi’s, and The Tanglewood Music Center, along with other major venues throughout the Bay Area and on the East Coast. Small and his music have been featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”, the NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) TV documentary on The Silk Road, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG-SSR), Bay Area radio stations KALW, KPFA and KQED, contemporary music podcasts, and on an Apple iPad and iPhone app produced for the de Young Museum of San Francisco. Compositional honors for Small include multiple awards from the American Composers Forum, as well as commissioning and funding awards from, and supported by, Intersection for the Arts’ “Jazz at Intersection” series, the James Irvine Foundation, the Zellerbach Family Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, the de Young Museum, San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, and the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. Small has also done voice-over work for TV and iPad game apps, worked with sound designer Andrew Roth to record and manipulate several of Small’s original bass pieces for The History Channel’s TV productions and various museum tours around the US, and Small has made minor appearances as an extra in films - as a triage doctor in Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film “Contagion”, and as a taxi driver in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2012 film “The Master”.
As a bassist Small has performed or recorded with artists and organizations such as Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (featuring Sandeep Das, Kayhan Kalhor, Wu Tong, Alim Qasimov, Wu Man, Ko Umezaki, Shane Shanahan, members of Brooklyn Rider String Quartet among others), Lev and Alexander Zhurbin, Daniel David Feinsmith, Jennifer Culp, Christopher Taylor, Gyan Riley, Mark Dresser, Zeena Parkins, Miya Masaoka, ROVA sax quartet (Larry Ochs, Jon Raskin, Steve Adams, Bruce Ackley), Dohee Lee, Jenny Scheinman, Carla Kihlstedt, , Marika Hughes, Jewlia Eisenberg, Scott Amendola, Will Bernard, Ben Goldberg, Nik Phelps, Phillip Greenlief, Rob Sudduth, Matt Brubeck, Jeff Cressman, Myles Boisen, Deirdre McClure, Wes Anderson, Dan Rathbun, Eskimo (Andy Borger, John Shiurba, David Cooper, Tom Yoder), Zach Rogue (Rogue Wave), Will Calhoun, Katy Stephan, Mitch Marcus, Sylvain Carton, Jeff Marrs, Chris Grady, Sheldon Brown, Micah McClain, Rachel Condry, Sarah Zaharako, Paula Dreyer, Kymry Esainko, Walker Lewis, Robert Moses’ Kin Dance Company, Oakland Opera Theatre, The Berkeley, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Long Beach, and California Symphonies, among many other performers and ensembles.
As a performer, composer, and producer, Small currently leads three distinct ensembles: The Crushing Spiral Ensemble, Matt Small’s Chamber Ensemble, and The Bedlam Royals. Small has released four CD’s with his groups (with three upcoming releases), showcasing a wide variety of compositional work that has been lauded in the local and national press.
Over the years, Small has been invited to perform in a number of private concerts with such artists as Clint Black, Arturo Sandoval, Tom Scott, Shelly Berg, Gregg Field, John Handy, Mads Tolling, Laurence Hobgood, and members of the Silk Road Ensemble, for a variety of public figures such as Henry and Nancy Kissinger, Oscar de la Renta, Jayne Wrightsman, Phil Ramone, Tom Brokaw, and Carnegie Hall’s Board of Directors, among others.
As a consultant to non-profits and Fortune 500 companies, Small has helped build bridges between the arts and music worlds, and the education and business communities, through a wide variety of collaborative projects at the local and national levels. By applying the principles of creativity and innovation that are fundamental to the music world, as well as the arts in general, Small has contributed to numerous cross-sector projects that have addressed the national dropout rate, STEM education issues, and the future workforce concerns of businesses and the communities in which they reside. Through his collaborative partnership with Los Angeles-based nonprofit Birth2Work, Small has served as a consultant to such organizations as Boeing, McDonalds, State Farm, Thomson Reuters, America’s Promise Alliance, The Santa Fe Institute, Stanford Research Institute (SRI), National Science Foundation (NSF), and others.
Small has worked with the de Young Museum in San Francisco on numerous projects, forging new cross-cultural bonds between the local and international patrons of the de Young with the Bay Area’s contemporary music and jazz audiences. His commissions from the de Young, performed live at the museum, include a piece based on a work of art in the de Young’s permanent collection that depicts a scene from California’s Gold Rush culture, and a special lecture/performance inspired by the internationally celebrated touring exhibit “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs”, in which Small explored the links between the music and cultures of the Ancient Silk Road with those of Ancient Egypt. Other performances at the de Young include concerts featuring selections from the repertoire of Small’s Chamber Ensemble that have roots in the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist eras. In a unique collaboration between the de Young and the Musee d’Orsay, rarely traveling Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterworks from the Paris museum were exhibited, for which Small’s concerts were featured events supporting the exhibitions. His work with the de Young has also been incorporated into an Apple iPhone and iPad museum tour application.
Before arriving on the West Coast in 1997, Small attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and College of Liberal Arts in Ohio. At Oberlin, he studied classical music and jazz with Oberlin’s esteemed faculty, as well as independent study with Richard Davis and Chuck Israels. He also developed original music projects with fellow students Ben Lapidus, Matt Paddock, Evan Rapport, Dave Justh, Josh Fisher and many others. While at Oberlin, he played under orchestral conductors Robert Spano, Peter Jaffe, Tim Weiss, Michael Christie, and a special appearance by movie music icon John Williams.