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Dave Matthews Band: What Would You Play

From the quintessential postbop of Thelonious Monk to the otherworldly explorations of Sun Ra, Dave Matthews has a deep and abiding love for jazz. But his passion was first ignited when he heard such seminal South African artists as pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and trumpeter Hugh Masekela, after the Johannesburg-born singer-songwriter’s parents introduced him to their music. “I grew up listening to them from the time I was a small child: Hugh, Miriam Makeba and Abdullah, when he was still known as Dollar Brand,” said Matthews, whose syncopated guitar style and genre-leaping band attest to his eclectic musical tastes and upbringing.

“The music of South Africa is woven into the fiber and history of that country. It has a connection into South Africa in the way that Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan have a connection into what this country has become. My understanding of what jazz is begins with African jazz.”

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Originally Published

George Varga

George Varga began drumming in bands at 12 and writing professionally about music at 15. A Louisiana native who grew up mostly in Germany, he has earned three Pulitzer Prize nominations as the music critic at the San Diego Union-Tribune. In 2002, he created and taught the UC San Diego Extension course, “Jazz in a Post-Ken-Burns World.” Varga’s latest project is Acid Reflux & The Wardrobe Malfunctions, a free-jazz Ashlee Simpson/Janet Jackson tribute band.