It is always tough to evaluate young musicians, but ten-year-old jazz pianist and composer Matt Savage had already released several CDs prior to this pair of 2003 concerts, so he had considerably more professional experience than someone his age typically would. After hearing about a television performance on The Montel Williams Show, I was interested in learning more about this young man. It is startling to hear such a young pianist already deeply immersed in bop, as well as composing within the style, at an age when most pianists are barely underway in piano lessons. There are no liner notes, so one is left to wonder how this prodigy developed so quickly. Savage and his two adult accompanists, bassist John Funkhouser and drummer Steve Silverstein, generally play well together, though there are occasional lapses where additional rehearsal time might have helped. Billy Strayhorn's gorgeous standard "Chelsea Bridge" is handicapped by the pianist's desire to add a bit too much to the melody, and he also rushes the tempo in spots. His execution is better in "Body and Soul," with a fine solo and some judicious chords backing Funkhouser's solo. His sense of humor comes across in his jig-like arrangement of "My Favorite Things," with Savage doing his share of tightrope walking with no slips. While seven of the ten tracks are originals, they show promise for this budding musician's career. "Firecracker" at first suggests Thelonious Monk's "I Mean You" but quickly turns into a slash-and-burn hard bop swinger. His playfully brisk "Chasing Your Tail" suggests the influence of Bud Powell, while the strutting Latin-flavored "El Fuego" also proves appealing. It is a bit early to evaluate this obviously talented young man objectively. After Matt Savage has spent additional years studying, practicing, and eventually rubbing elbows with jazz greats in New York City, critics will be better able to give him a fair hearing. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this CD, available through www.savagerecords.com, benefits autism research and support.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden