2019 Biamp PDX Jazz Festival presents Matthew Whitaker Trio & Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group
February 28, 2019 | 7:30 pm- $15 – $20
Born in 2001 in Hackensack, NJ, Matthew Whitaker grew up surrounded by music. His love for playing music first began at the young age of 3, after his grandfather gave him a small Yamaha keyboard.
At 9, Matthew began teaching himself how to play the Hammond B3 organ. Four years later, he became the youngest artist to be endorsed by Hammond in its 80+ year history. He was also named a Yamaha Artist at 15, becoming the youngest musician to join the stellar group of jazz pianists.
Matthew has had years of music instruction, currently studying classical piano and drums at The Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School in NYC. It is the only community music school for the blind and visually impaired in the US. He also attended the Manhattan School of Music’s Precollege Jazz Program.
He previously studied at The Harlem School of the Arts and was a member of both the Jazz House Big Band and the Organ Messengers at Jazz House Kids in Montclair, NJ.
Matthew has received the “Outstanding Soloist Award” from Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Charles Mingus High School Competition & Festival and the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival. He was also recognized by the Harlem International Film Festival, which named him “Most Remarkable Young Person on Screen.”
He’s already toured both here in the US and abroad, performing before The Youth Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in NYC, and on other world renowned stages, including: Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Apollo Theater, Carnegie Hall, and Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC; SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco; the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC; The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in Florida, and at international venues in France, Italy, Germany, Indonesia, UK, Australia, Switzerland, Portugal, Japan and Morocco.
Matthew has performed with an array of outstanding musicians: Ray Chew, Christian McBride, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Rhoda Scott, Cameron Carpenter, Regina Carter, Jon Batiste, Cory Henry, Marc Cary, Arturo O’Farrill, James Carter, Roy Ayers, D.D. Jackson, The New York Pops Orchestra and with Hamiet Bluiett and his Bio-Electric Ensemble.
In 2010, Matthew was a winning participant in the “Child Stars of Tomorrow” competition, as part of Amateur Night at the Apollo. A year later, at just 10 years old, he was invited to perform at Stevie Wonder’s induction into the Apollo Theater’s Hall of Fame. He returned to the Apollo for FOX TV’s revival of SHOWTIME AT THE APOLLO in 2016, where he won the audience over with his rendition of Stevie Wonder’s classic “I Wish.” Matthew has been on national and international television, which includes the TODAY SHOW documentary series “Boys Changing The World,” Harry Connick Jr Show and an appearance on the syndicated TV talk show ELLEN!
Having composed several original compositions, Matthew names a list of stellar musicians, composers/arrangers as his artistic influences including: organists Dr. Lonnie Smith, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Rhoda Scott; pianists Stevie Wonder, Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Ahmad Jamal, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Chick Corea, Jon Batiste, Cory Henry, Marc Cary, D.D. Jackson, Chopin, Bach; and drummers Roy Haynes, T.S. Monk, Herlin Riley, Otis Brown III, Otis Brown Jr, and Johnathan Blake.
2017, he was named 1 of the 17 people to watch in New Jersey by The Record, one of New Jersey’s largest newspapers and Crain’s Business New York breakout list of 20 under 20 as a performing artist.
Matthew was named 1 of 7 rising stars for 2018 by USA Today network’s 201 Magazine.
The Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group, called “Jimmy Mak’s signature band” by The Oregonian, performed on Thursday nights for 20 years at the noted Pearl District music venue. That’s a remarkably long run, but the band’s roots extend back even further than its September 1997 debut at Jimmy Mak’s.
In 1997, most Portland music fans were familiar with Mel Brown as the dean of Portland jazz drummers and for his earlier stint as a Motown staff drummer (working with the likes of Diana Ross, Martha Reeves, Smokey Robinson, and the Temptations). But before that, Mel had gigged around the NW with Billy Larkin & the Delegates, a funky organ group. (The band had a regional hit record, “The Pygmy,” which was covered by Booker T & the MG’s.) Similarly, in 1997 organist Louis “King Louie” Pain was known to Portlanders for his work with the great Portland blues/soul icons Paul deLay and Linda Hornbuckle (now sadly both deceased), but his roots were in the soul-jazz organ group genre. In the mid-seventies, back in his native Bay Area, Louis had cut his teeth playing in an organ group led by Bay Area sax legend Jules Broussard, who Mel had actually worked with a few years earlier.
Within a month of the group’s inaugural Jimmy Mak’s gig, customers were lining up down the block on Thursday nights. The band’s unrehearsed-yet-tight Hammond B-3-anchored style (featuring organ bass), dubbed “the sound of spontaneity” by The Oregonian, was something totally new to the young, hip Pearl District audiences. Adding to the coolness of the gig: mixed in with the young fans were some veterans of Portland’s ‘50s & ‘60s jump jazz scene–rooting the band on and, in the case of the late Sweet Baby James Benton, occasionally sitting in.
The group’s sound is no longer entirely unique in Portland; as early as the late ‘90s, young soul-jazz organ groups, inspired by Mel’s band, began to spring up. But what has always made the Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group special isn’t really its instrumentation or material: it’s the talent & soul of the band’s members, and their love of creating exciting music together “on the spot.” Audiences can’t get enough of it!
On November 14, 2013 and December 2, 2014, the band celebrated the sixteenth anniversary of its Thursday night Jimmy Mak’s gig with a pair of special shows that were recorded live. In his rave review of the first of those shows, The Oregonian‘s David Greenwald wrote that the group’s performances, “take a jazz blowtorch to pop history.” On June 12, 2014, the band released not one but two exciting new CD’s recorded at those gigs! The CD’s are entitled, 16th Anniversary, Part 1: Ticket To Ride and 16th Anniversary Part 2: More Today Than Yesterday. The latter CD was reviewed by Downbeat Magazine in August, with reviewer Frank-John Hadley stating, “Something special occurs when this local quintet appears at Jimmy Mak’s jazz club in Portland, OR.”