My name is Zach Manzi, and in addition to playing bass clarinet with Nu Deco, I sit down and talk with my fellow musicians about their lives––work, play, and everything in between. I have never been part of a group with people who do such varying things as musicians, and I’m thrilled to help you get to know them.
This summer, I sat in close proximity to pianist and composer Jason Matthews during the Nu Deco album recording, and I could immediately see why Sam and Jacomo brought him on to be a core member of the group. His presence is strong, in a chilled-out way, and he plays every instrument in front of him with palpable energy and grace. In addition to the other musicians from non-classical backgrounds in the group, including drummer Armando Lopez and guitarist Aaron Lebos, Jason felt absolutely synonymous with Nu Deco that week, bringing new rhythmic and sonic elements that have started to characterize the Nu Deco sound. Jason plays all over Miami in several groups, including a band that he’s in with Lopez called Electric Kif. At the North Beach Bandshell on January 26, Nu Deco will perform music from one of Jason’s other groups, TWYN. I learned about this group while prepping for the Bandshell program and have been listening to their songs on repeat since then. I recently asked Jason to talk with me a bit about himself and TWYN, and what it’s going to be like to collaborate with Nu Deco on their music.
Q: Hey Jason! First, where are you from, and how did you end up in Miami?
A: I am originally born in Ridley, PA, just outside of Philadelphia. When I was in elementary school, my family moved out to Kennett Square and I went to school in Unionville for the remainder of grade school. In High School, I applied to University of Miami and got in for Music Education with a Jazz Emphasis. Throughout college, I was playing in the Miami club scene with my original projects so when it came to graduating in 2013, I stayed down here to develop those projects.
Q: Who have been some of your biggest musical inspirations and how have they shaped you as a musician?
A: The band that inspired me to play piano/keyboards was YES. I loved Progressive rock. I was literally obsessed with them when I was 13 years old; I knew every album and saw them 4 times as a teenager. That’s not a normal band to be obsessed with when you are 13 lol. I actually had a band with my brother called 'Grove' at the time that tried to write in a similar style. We used to rock the High School coffee houses.
Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau, Ahmad Jamal, Aaron Parks & Robert Glasper were huge influences for me as I dove further into playing jazz. These guys were perfect examples of learning the tradition of the music and making it your own. I even studied with Aaron Parks a handful of times when I was in college and he taught me a lot about composition and how to really practice and exercise something you want in your playing.
Artistically, I am inspired by Radiohead, Little Dragon, Jimi Hendrix, Blonde Redhead, Led Zeppelin, Anderson Paak., Emily King, and Kendrick Lamar. I want to make powerful records like those artists.
Q: Where are your favorite places to play in Miami?
A: Well Lagniappe House has been an important hub for bands in Miami. So that's number 1 for me. I dig 1-800 Lucky and Gramps in Wynwood. Also, The Corner on Tuesday nights for jazz and Floyd any other night for underground dance music.
Q: So—what’s the story behind TWYN and the piece with Nu Deco?
A: The piece we are working on with Sam (Hyken) for January 26th is a collection of 3 themes that my bandmate, Aaron Glueckauf, and myself wrote for TWYN. We are a live experimental duo (drums and keys) that often improvise in the moment. I use a looper pedal to create palettes of sound and I improvise melodies over these looped progressions while Aaron creates the rhythm and feel of the song. It is very spontaneous. The meaning of this piece is really to showcase our chemistry as a duo and what music we come up with in the moment.
Q: What are you most looking forward to on collaborating with Nu Deco on this?
A: I just love the orchestra. It can be the most powerful ensemble when you use it with the right feel and intention. I also appreciate what Nu Deco stands for and what they are trying to build. Aaron and I are stoked we get a chance to premiere our songs with a badass ensemble. We want it to feel epic and hypnotic, so hopefully we can achieve that with this piece.
Q: Okay, last one, and I know it’s one that you get often—what is a Moog synthesizer? (This is one of the main instruments that Jason plays with Nu Deco)
A: A Moog synthesizer is electronic analog instrument that was invented and developed by Robert Moog in the 1960's and early 70's. It's an instrument that can be sculpted and manipulated by the player and has endless combinations of sound and patterns. The most famous Moog synth is called the Minimoog (played liked a keyboard) and manufactured from 1970 through 1980. Because of the organic properties of the instrument, they blend really well within the orchestra if you know how to use them. [The instrument is also known for being used in all kinds of cinematic music, including the music of NETFLIX hit show, Stranger Things.]
After you hear TWYN’s music played by Nu Deco at the Bandshell on January 26, you can see TWYN performing as a duo at Wynwood Yard on January 31st. Follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.