Not THIS Winter…

In any non-plague winter, my friends Dennis and Dan from Massachusetts would be picking me up here in Schenectady today or maybe next week for our annual Adirondacks music pilgrimage to the deep-in-the-woods home of friend and host Stephen and wife Kevan. 

Packing skis, snowshoes, warm winter gear, CDs, food (I’d have stocked up at Perreca’s!) and drink, we’d stop at the Noonmark Diner in Keane Valley for pies. Then we’d scale Stephen and Kevan’s corkscrew uphill driveway to what was once called the Rice Mountain Lodge, unpack our goods and settle in for the weekend. 

We’d listen to music, for hours, days; obsessively and intently then discuss and debate; then listen some more.

Stephen and Kevan’s house near Paul Smiths, HQ of the Mountain Music Club

Most afternoons, and sometimes after midnight, we’d hit the trails that web and wander through tall forest; so close to the house that we put on skis or snowshoes inside before exploring in the snow. 

In the words of a ski-resort band that Sundazed Records impresario Bob Irwin once led, we’d “laugh at the cold:” 38 below zero one moonlit, mercifully wind-less midnight.

This year, no.

Instead, we’ve been recalling those meet-ups of what I like to call the Mountain Music Club, whose members are emailing more often than usual about music and life and music and the plague and music.

Dan prompted this latest dialog, digging out emails from last fall, earlier in the plague, and encouraging me to blog it here. Stephen dove right into music, recounting a recent Talking Heads/David Byrne epiphany. And he shared with us emailed conversations with LA music-maker John. I use their words here with their permission.

Then I digressed all over the place, in the emails Dan resurrected: Thanks!

First, here’s Stephen talking with his rock-bassist buddy John about his happy surprise at Kevan’s suddenly “getting” the Talking Heads.

Just thought of you in the music business as I Googled info on Tina Weymouth and more details on writing credits for the Talking Heads. Why? After wife Kevan read a review of the Chris Frantz memoir that just came out (“The Mamas and the Dadas,” WSJ) and asked me about the Demme movie, I reminded her that I had blasted my big B & O speakers (Bang & Olefsen – expertly refurbished by mutual friend/stereo maven and music fan John Michael Caldaro) to their limit back in 1984 at our farmhouse at the end of a dirt road in Central NY and that she had declined to join me. (In fairness, I think she was on a museum business trip to NYC.)

(I was a late comer to the Talking Heads, always distrusted punk and, having done some art school, was wary of wannabe hipsters. But this movie reminded me how very wrong I was.)

So, we cranked up the same speakers tonight and streamed the Big Suit into the living room. Amazingly, Kevan turned the volume way past where I had conservatively set it for her ears and loved the full hour and a half. As did I, after too many years.

So, this song writing credit thing that still haunts (Robbie) Robertson and (the late Levon) Helm and The Band’s history—collaboration vs. personal inspiration—drove me to Wikipedia to see how all 92 Talking Heads songs were credited, since in his publication Frantz seems to have a jaundiced view of Byrne’s ability to share credit.

I don’t care that Robertson wrote the lyrics, The Band’s sound is from Helm. It’s collaboration. And I’m glad to see all the Heads get credits for the early stuff and Weymouth added to “Psycho Killer” credits. Sometime you’ll have to explain how thick your skin has to be to survive in this music business…

My take away after watching the concert again is far more favorable to Byrne than I expected. Truly brilliant sense of theater and movement that added that sense of mystery to the art that I think makes some art greater than others. (I suffer from giving too much information in my painting; Byrne made his imponderable lyrics fit in a context of knowing absurdity.) But I thought of you and your bass as I tried to see Weymouth guitar work. That was hard, since all eyes and cameras were on her legs and hair and wonderful smile. Wiki tells me she picked up the bass at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) but had some teenage guitar before. Whatever, that bass and the percussion of her husband et al was irresistible. Let’s hear it for African polyrhythms!

Then, Stephen’s friend John chimed in by email this way:

So Liz and I are doing an advertising gig at the Village Recorder in West LA in the early 90s. We had already had our music demo approved for whatever commercial it was, maybe ATT or Nike or some car… don’t remember. Now we just had to record in a proper studio with a live band.

So our agency and their clients are sitting respectfully on the couch as my pal musicians roll in. The band are great guys who we are good buddies with, and by the way, have played with Dylan, Phil Collins, Supertramp, Sting. All brilliant.

OK, ready to go but Liz has to do a quick Xerox of the chart we are going to record; we need eight copies. Liz goes to the studio manager’s office to the copy machine and can’t get in ‘cause David Byrne is making a copy of his novel!!

He wouldn’t let her near the machine! I’m burning about $2K an hour in musician and studio fees while we played “Dr. Robert” waiting for Liz and the chart! I don’t think our clients who came from New York or Portland or wherever expected to hear ten minutes of a song from (the Beatles’ album) ”Revolver.” Well, she drummed her fingers loud enough to where we interrupted his genius for about two minutes. 

Session went fine once we all had the music in front of us.  

Songwriting credits are the source of big arguments and big money. I read Levon’s book and shuddered to think of the royalties he claimed he never received.

Music business is not an elegant business.

OK, my turn, but first, the wisdom of Hunter S. Thompson:

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

Then I digressed all over, in the way the Mountain Music Club indulges me between blasts of the good stuff on Stephen’s stereo.

Being New York City proximal, we got Talking Heads early and often here, from a $750 opening act (!) gig with the Good Rats from Long Island at SUNY Albany’s Page Hall (where Good Rats lead singer Pepe Marcello rolled a shopping cart full of baseball bats onstage to brandish as air-guitar props and where I also saw MANY cool things including Warren Zevon with an all-star band of Hollywood killers, Elvis Costello with the original Attractions, Billy Falcon’s Burning Rose [afterward he said, “If you’re not singing like Van Morrison, you’re not singing right!” – guess how he sang? – several sky-scorching Pat Metheny shows, Allen Ginsberg [the after-party at the Ginger Man featured William Kennedy – we talked about Sinatra], where Willie Nile opened for the Roches, solo and without introduction, killing the place until someone yelled, “Who ARE you?” – I could go on, and I think I have). 

Talking Heads went on to theater gigs as headliners, then to SPAC on the Big Suit tour (delayed by a suicide scare – a guy climbed to the top of the Thaddeus Kosciuszko twin bridges [whose curves earned the local nickname: the Dolly Parton bridges] that closed I-87 for an hour). Afterward I talked with Byrne some and found him at first disconcertingly deliberate until I got his odd conversational rhythm: ask a question, wait a while, maybe two or three whiles, as he thinks, then gives you a few paragraphs.

In later years, I saw the post-Talking Heads Frantz-Weymouth funk band Tom Tom Club in several big-bar shows here; then saw Byrne lead his jazzy big-band Ten Car Pileup at SPAC, a smaller but cool band at The Egg the night after Obama was elected – that band co-starred the celestial Jenny Muldaur, daughter of Maria and Geoff – then his (current) Utopia band in the perfect setting of Albany’s 3,000-seat Palace Theater, before the highly touted month-long Broadway run that Spike Lee filmed.

Comparing the credit-cash dynamic of the Talking Heads to that of The Band is interesting but misses the point some.

Sure, Byrne and Robertson are kindred control freaks, arguably stingy with co-credits. (But I loved it when Byrne booted the lyrics of a Heads’ song in the Albany Utopia show, then laughed at himself…) And in a better world, the Levons (he offered me a cigarette once, I declined with thanks; another time I petted his dog, a black lab mix), the Tinas and Chrises would get a fair shake for devising the sounds that clothe melodies and meanings of songs. Another discussion for another time is the power-correction equation in great bands – that become great because one of two lead creative forces has the power and balls to say, “NO, that’s SHIT!” – and make it stick. Cf: Lennon & McCartney, Jagger & Richards, the Davies brothers in the Kinks, etc. 

No, even the creative side of the biz is unfair.

But there was more than that imbalance going on with the Heads, and with Byrne, who seeks creative input from both musical (Brian Eno, the cats cited below) and theater professionals (Twyla Tharp, and the co-designers who helped shape the visuals of the Utopia tour.)

While Tina and Chris always had the funk (and so did Jerry Harrison – while it seemed learned, acquired, for Byrne), anti-art-school-hipster bias notwithstanding, the power of the expanded (Afro-) Talking Heads largely came from its adjunct members: keyboardist Bernie Worrell (who co-founded Parliament Funkadelic with George Clinton – there IS no higher funk credential this side of James Brown), percussionist Steve Scales (a grossly under-rated rhythm genius who locked beats with Tina and Chris to micro-precision but just enough drift off the one to push things) and guitarist Adrian Belew (whom Frank Zappa discovered playing in an Ohio motel lounge band “making good Stratocaster noises” and hired him on the spot and who played in David Bowie’s touring band later. Belew told me it took just three days to learn to play Bowie’s songs but three weeks to learn the choreography to interact with projected images [including himself] on a 50′ video stage backdrop over the SPAC stage.) But I digress. Those three packed a beat power that punched up the funk big-time. 

Most of all, I think I like reading how Kevan turned shit UP. 

But now, at the risk of launching a sexist screed here, I gotta talk some shit. 

We always joke about sending Kevan off to some high-testosterone zone when we gather to geek out on tunes, Dennis tries to steer wife Mary Ann gently away from our obsession sessions, and I’m forever having to turn DOWN shit here when my wife-hero Ellie is home. She imagines, for unfathomable reasons known only to her, that dinner conversation should take precedence over kicking out the fucking jams when there also just happens to be food and guests around. Very confusing. 

I recall the tributes that mourned John Belushi after he died included a tale of how SNL czar Lorne Michaels or some other straight objected to Belushi blasting an album by the LA punk band Fear (who played SNL at Belushi’s “do-it-or-fire-me” ultimatum) in the SNL offices. Belushi calmly listened to the objection, then turned it UP! The piece was titled “Why John Belushi Went to Heaven.”

Once early in my re-Schenectady time, when I drifted back here after the Navy with no clearer or stronger ambition than somehow earning enough to rent a place to set up my stereo, I was in the deafening listening room of a music-crazone named Milton P. Zapolski. He sold audio gear in an emporium called Stereo Sound where it was OK to smoke a joint in the listening rooms and where Kite, my first writing publisher, started in an upstairs office.

I don’t recall what music Milton had on his muscular MacIntosh, Marantz and Advent rig that day. but I do remember that he told another listener, who asked about my eyes-closed, shoulders-bobbing concentration, that “Yeah, Michael listens like a man.” 

Apart from the implications of that anecdotal “data,” lemme just ask, do guys (we) listen differently, more intently and with a greater willingness to submerge ourselves in gusts of sound, than women (they…) do?

While you mull that over, lemme tell you about the time Milton took a lull in a Pink Floyd show as a disappointing early ending and hollered, from the first row of the Carnegie Hall balcony, from right next to me, “PLEASE play some more!” He went on to explain, in a shout that filled that quiet passage, that he was from the country, but not naive, and didn’t appreciate being short-changed. 

The Floyd guys laughed, the audience didn’t; but were soon mollified as the band fired up more music from “Meddle,” the (much more interesting) album they made before “Dark Side of the Moon.”

Years before that Pink Floyd show, Milton was studying at the Manhattan School of Music but mostly skipped class to haunt any classical ensemble he could infiltrate. He inveigled his way into so many New York Philharmonic concerts and rehearsals, insistently urging they play more Mahler, that Leonard Bernstein – Milton called him “Big Lenny,” to his face – came to recognize him. 

So, one night after a triumphant Big Lenny Carnegie Hall extravaganza, Milton slipped backstage and espied the maestro approaching down a corridor, amid perfect New York-culture company. 

Caped, chuffed by applause, ever-so-grand, Big Lenny stopped and hailed Milton. “Ah, the Mahler Club!” Then he made introductions. “On my left are Mr. Adolph Green and Miss Betty Comden, and on my left is Miss Lauren Bacall.” Milton tugged on his chin, frowned in confusion, then spoke, speculating, “Lauren Bacall, now I know that name from somewhere.” She exploded in snubbed-celebrity outrage, turned and stomped off, Green and Comden stifled laughs, but Big Lenny just let go with guffaws.

Well, Excuse me!

Some recent stories need clarifications and caveats

My Gazette story Jan. 31 on the Aerodrome brought lots of interest and input from readers: folks LOVED the place.

However, concentrating on the musical legacy of the place, I neglected to mention several key contributors to the venue and its activities on the business and bookings side. Fred Baye as assistant manager booked the bands that played there, leveraging his knowledge of music and the music business to hire both big and emerging acts. Fred worked with manager Bob Murphy, who founded the Ale House in Troy after the Aerodrome closed. At that time, Fred moved on to work with Gov. Mario Cuomo and evangelist Billy Graham while also fostering an alliance between rock and Gospel.

Many artists and fans also chimed in about bands they saw at the Aerodrome, often naming giant stars of the time. It’s happening everywhere: To Michael Eck’s Facebook post of a YouTube video showing Tim Buckley singing “Buzzin’ Fly,” William Rella posted, “Saw him at Aerodrome in Schenectady. Close to the last date ever there.”

But my musician brother Jim Hoke wrote me about “the mentioned-but-not-described band with the name ‘Aerodrome’ whose name appears often as opening act for more famous bands.” He wrote, “These guys were fucking great, and could play and sing rings around most of the bands they opened for. 

“When we first played there, they were the Characters…I remember many a night at that place, watching the Characters open shows, playing impeccable covers of the hits of the day. They had a sax player with an electronic rig that would simulate, say, the strings on ‘I Am The Walrus.’ They were a couple years older, and many years better than my band (West Side Highway). Later, after the featured band was done, these guys would play the late last set for die-hard drunks and hangers-on. There’d be four people in the place, so that meant it was safe for them to play jazz and other deep weird shit and they were amazing musicians; we were awed. The story you told (and that a fan told to me) about one of the bubble-gum bands getting pissed off at the crowd and “playing Miles Davis” was likely a mis-remembrance of the Characters. Those galoots in The Ohio Express and their ilk couldn’t have played Miles Davis – they weren’t nearly that good. 

“As the Characters became the default house band, part of the deal was the name change, to re-enforce the brand, I suppose…I never heard about them again, except that the sax player, Jack, went on to do a one-man-band act called The Mechanical Man.”

My story on announcing the discovery and posting of live Blotto sets brought these clarifying comments from Helena Binder, formerly Blanche Blotto. 

“Thanks for this, Michael!” – she wrote. “I must correct a few things for the record,” she went on, “Keyboards on ‘I Wanna Be a Lifeguard’ and all the tunes on the ‘My Father’s Place’ recording were played by me, not Chevy Blotto. He joined after I left. And ‘I Love You Calvin Klein’ was written by me alone.” Blanche then wrote, “Great to have the publicity on the release of these recordings.”

Two Names, Two Nations – One Big Bag of Music

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So prolific, so hyphenated, he needs two names, jazz-pop saxophonist-composer-keyboardist-singer-bandleader-teacher Matt Steckler AND Matty Stecks sums up his past, jumps genres and looks ahead on four recent record releases.

The most recent and ambitious, “Long Time Ago Rumble” sums up everything so far in a varied career. Jumping around like a car radio on “scan,” it offers a a confident ride through hard-bop, found-sounds, contemporary (also not so contemporary) pop/R&B, world-beat and what once was called “new music.”

Stecks attributed the stylistic range of the new two-CD album to “the talent pool up there,” explaining the project in an email conversation. “Up there” is Brandon, Manitoba where he taught for three years, performed, composed and recorded. 

In July, as the COVID pandemic shut the door on any extension of his teaching contract there, he returned to his home town – like millions of others whose lives turned upside down. He lives now with singer-wife Megan Demarest and their precocious eight-year old son Elliott in the suburban Niskayuna home of his artist-retired Union professor father Charles Steckler and his father’s wife Ginger Ertz, retired education chief at Skidmore’s Tang Teaching Museum.

So, how did a hometown Schenectady kid wind up in Manitoba, then back here? 

The short answer: a confluence of academic, creative and performance endeavors, a path that echoes his father’s and that landed him in 2017 as Assistant Professor in Jazz Studies in the Brandon University School of Music. Stecks taught Jazz Composition, Jazz History, Aural Skills, a Graduate Seminar in Performance, Advanced Improvisation; Ensemble Coaching and ran the Saxophone Studio.

An even shorter answer: through a questing talent buffed bright by many mentors in technique and vision.

In the last graduating class (1992) at Linton High School (which became Schenectady High School when cross-town counterpart Mont Pleasant became a middle school), Stecks sang in the chorus Diane Warner led, studied jazz with bandleaders or private teachers Al Hollenbeck, Sheila Tebbano and Jim Orden; and saxophone with Emil Kalled, Nick Brignola, Conrad Kuchay and Chuck Fisher. 

Vibraphonist Jay Hoggard was his advisor “and link to traditional jazz practices” at Wesleyan, where Anthony Braxton “was the visionary who opened my ears to composition and the avant garde,” as Stecks explained. He also drove into New York for sax lessons with Thomas Chapin and explored world music with T. Viswanathan, Abraham Adzenyah, Gage Averill and others. While playing a weekly quartet gig with Braxton, he also started what later became his band Dead Cat Bounce (hereafter DCB, mostly), first in music/poetry collaborations with his room-mate, then a growing fascination with the World Saxophone Quartet.

After Wesleyan, Stecks earned a Masters in Music in Jazz Performance at the New England Conservatory, studying with Jerry Bergonzi, Danilo Perez, Allan Chase, Paul Bley, Cecil McBee, Bob Moses and others, plus briefer stints with Gunther Schuller and Steve Lacy and other luminaries. DCB came into its own in the Boston area, too: three albums and three tours from 1997 to 2003.

More training, more gigs and a new band followed in New York from 2003 to 2014 when he made a fourth DCB album, plus two with Persiflage. Meanwhile, he earned a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. in Composition at NYU and studied with Jerica Oblak, Jim McNeely, Marc Antonio Consoli and Justin Dello Joio. Numerous Persiflage gigs included Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors and the Blue Note in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Cleveland’s Tri-C Fest and the Hennessy XO Jazz Fest in Shanghai.

In 2012 and 2013, Stecks presented the big-band series “Party Horns” in Proctors GE Theater, as his own music earned critical plaudits.

JazzTimes called DCB’s fourth album “Chance Episodes” one of its top 50 jazz CDs of 2011; Stecks composed the music on commission by Chamber Music America and the American Music Center’s Composer Assistance Program, but it’s anything but academic.

In the Boston Phoenix, Jon Garelick hailed DCB’s sound as “tightly arranged, swirling contrapuntal reeds and multi-part blues n’ roots-infused tricky compositions.” Mike Joyce reported in the Washington Post, “DCB revels in a reed-driven sound marked by sharply contrasting forms, textures and tones…strident, joyful, lush and strutting use of a horn section.” 

Of the Party Horns series at Proctors, Stecks said, “Besides bringing (his own bands) Dead Cat Bounce and Persiflage there, I brought some other great New York City bands upstate,” including Red Baraat, Slavic Soul Party, Josh Roseman, Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber and Brooklyn Qawwali Party. Stecks said, “(Proctors chief) Philip Morris has always had an open heart to trying new and creative ideas out.” 

In a spring 2012 Gazette preview of the series, I described DCB as “inspired in about equal measure by the World Saxophone Quartet and Charles Mingus, plus Caribbean, Brazilian and West African echoes. It’s in nonstop intelligent motion but never feels hectic because the melodies are so pleasing, the beats so earthy. They go pretty far outside at times, but they know the way back and how to get there without a map. They’re well schooled but intuitive, individual in their soloing but also eagerly cohesive section players.”¶

In 2014, Stecks moved to Bennington with wife Megan and son Elliott. Stecks taught at the Dorset School and played regularly with Alex Torres and His Latin Orchestra including the New York State Fair in Syracuse and the Saratoga Museum of Dance.

Then in 2017, they moved to Manitoba on a three-year teaching contract. In the way that the best educators learn by teaching, Stecks refined both technique and artistic vision north of the border.

About technique, Stecks-the-professor said, “I realized at last the value of classical technique in getting young musicians to ‘put it all together.’” He added, “But equally important is training and trusting the ear and the body. So I’m both refining a skill set specific to my main instrument and becoming more holistic in experiencing music, through my voice and other instruments (piano, drums, production). Each side informs the other.”

Conceptually, “I’m no longer concerned with the loaded term ‘finding one’s voice,’” he said. “I realize now that the voice is Matty Stecks,” he explained, noting the moniker is a longstanding nickname among his friends, but now is also “a practical way to deal with having all projects under one roof.” He said, “The genre (is) merely the vehicle through which to express it. That’s very liberating.”

Credited to Matty Stecks & the Musical Tramps, the most ambitious project assembled under that roof is “Long Time Ago Rumble,” a two-CD studio project released on Ropeadope/Manitoba Film and Music. Stecks plays reeds and keyboards and sings, with singer-wife Megan Demarest, three other singers, guitars, bass, drums and percussion, keyboards, cello and clarinet. 

“The cast of talented musicians I’ve assembled put their heart and soul into this effort, which began as a live world premiere concert, commissioned by Brandon Chamber Players in January 2019,” wrote Stecks in the liner notes. “Together, the ensemble is lovingly called Matty Stecks & Musical Tramps (named after the 1914 Chaplin film which I re-scored for the occasion.)”

He explained by email that he recorded the album in May and June of 2019 with producer Jordan Jackiew at Tailored Recording in Winnipeg. “The jazz stuff was tracked together live, the pop and film score was tracked; the rhythm section together plus overdubs and the collective improv stuff tracked together with electronic processing in post (-production).”

Leaving Manitoba in July as COVID shut down the world, Stecks “didn’t want it to be a lost year, so I made sure I had a creative outlet where I’m waiting this out in my home town. I’m presenting at music conferences online, consolidating that research. I had two album recordings in the vault (“Lucky & Live in STL” with DCB and “Night Cravings” with Persiflage) that I didn’t want to sit on any longer, so I released those on New Year’s. And I’m practicing a fair amount and writing and working on my production skills.” 

While in Manitoba, Steckler also played a supporting role in “Suite 150: A Big Band Jazz Portrait” by the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra as member of the reed section rather than a soloist. “Suite 150” collects 11 pieces, one each by 11 Canadian composers celebrating their homeland on its 150th year (in 2017; the album was released in 2018). It’s modern, bold and confidently played. 

Steckler led the two retrospectives he released Jan 1. 

“Live and Lucky in StL” shows DCB in full flight on a 2003 tour. These guys play music; it’s charged with youthful energy, but applied to veterans’ views of the tradition(s) they celebrate. The configuration – four saxes, bass and drums – feels both muscular and sparse without a keyboard or guitar comping chords. Its performing bravado matches a conceptual boldness that may shine brightest in its most familiar tune. Charles Mingus’s venerable “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” usually swings in a melancholy way, but here it’s rambunctious and zippy before settling into brawny section playing over a gleeful clatter. They close with a Second Line shuffle that might make you sprain something if you tried to shake with all its beats. Here, Stecker plays with fellow saxophonists Jared Sims, Felipe Salles and Charlie Kohlhase, bassist Garry Wicks and drummer Bill Carbone.

“Night Cravings” is a Persiflage studio date (2014). The band was elastic in its NYC gigs, often featuring name players. But by the end of Steckler’s Brooklyn residency, he’d solidified the lineup with Curtis Hasselbring, trombone; Todd Neufeld, guitar; Dave Ambrosio, bass; and Satoshi Takeishi, percussion. Generally leaner in its arrangements than the DCB release, it swings with a more muscular feel. It also explores fresh sonorities in the blend of sax, trombone and guitar. Some is feisty, some sweet, but always a confident, fun ride.

On these DCB and Persiflage projects, Stecks plays various reeds, ranging from pristine Jean-Pierre Rampal flute phrasing to edgy David Sanborn-like rawness on alto, his most fluent solo axe. And on ““Long Time Ago Rumble,” he also sings and plays keyboards.

Now Stecks stays busy solo or in collaborations. “While gigs are important and sorely missed at this time,” he said, “a permanently documented legacy is on my mind (recordings and compositions), as is the drive to collaborate more, in research-based ways and as a means to reconnect with friends.”

Stecks is working on “little one-off solo performances online; a concert band plus chorus piece commission (a setting of a Walter LeMare poem) for Manitoba’s Music Monday event (which hopefully one day will be performed!); a Christmas recording with Maxine Linehan, and holiday stream concert from RPI/EMPAC; and some socially-distanced performing with Megan (jazz & popular covers).” He has a grant application for a jazz quartet recording project back in Manitoba “when things open up;” he’s teaching a few students online, taking his turn at meal prep in a gourmet-rich household of four cooks and home-schooling his son. “Perhaps my biggest project is trying to tame and channel the raging musical talent that is my son Elliott. If he realizes that, he’ll be a force to reckon with.”

He also collaborates, online and asynchronously, with musical friends, often posting these songs to YouTube:

“One person sends a video to another to improvise to, and it’s synched in editing,” he said. “The pop songs that have collaboration just require remote file sharing, and patience!”

In this oblique or virtual way, Stecks maintains collaborations and community. In the “Long Time Ago Rumble” liner notes, he writes, “A special thanks to the ‘village’ of Manitoba – my adopted home these last few years – you’ve helped me gain perspective on what a music scene, and a community, can be in a different setting.”

He said by email recently, “I’m in touch with the DCB core members and am trying to figure out performing opportunities, though everyone’s in different places. The Persiflage project would be easier to play live as everyone’s based in NYC. Although both have been dormant, I’m never one to say definitively ‘this is the end.’ And I’ve used music from both projects in other performing situations (like the quartet up north I intend to record at some point.”

Hopeful, realistic, ready to create, wherever, he said, “I have a path now for creating wherever I end up. And I’ll never take the opportunity to create for granted ever again.”

Matthew Steckler/Matty Stecks’s music is available at and, and can be streamed on Spotify and other streaming platforms

Stecks was recently selected for a composing residency at the Millay Colony for the Arts at “Steepletop,” the historic home of poet/activist Edna St. Vincent Millay in Austerlitz at the edge of the Berkshires.