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May 2008

Matt Savage Trio
Hot Ticket: Live in Boston
Savage

By now the extraordinary story of Matt Savage is well known. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 3, underwent intensive therapy and took up piano at age 7. He jammed with Chick Corea’s rhythm section when he was 8 and played the Blue Note when he was 11. He is now 15, and Hot Ticket is his eighth album. Savage may be the most publicized prodigy in the history of jazz. He has been written up in Time and People and this magazine. He was the subject of a much-discussed piece on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. He has appeared on TV shows like Today, 20/20 and Letterman. All the hype on Savage has begun to create a backlash (as hype always does). Some critics have begun to fret that he may not mature into a major jazz pianist. They need to chill.

It is true that some pieces on Hot Ticket are forms of showing off. On “Black Key Magic” (“some parts built entirely on the black keys and some parts entirely on the white”) and “A 6/4 Song,” Savage solves, then celebrates some daunting musical puzzles.

“Father’s Day” is an example of why we should all keep the faith regarding Matt Savage. Like many of his pieces, you think it is going to be about one thing—in this case a shuffle song for his dad, a hard run through the blues changes. But then it modulates into dissonance, then double-clutches into half-time, then flies off again and blows up the blues in pummeling chords and jagged clusters and long, rippling runs, but still keeps the groove going. Savage throws the kitchen sink at it. Wouldn’t you, if you were 15 and you could?

Originally published in May 2008
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