Live at the Azure Cafe
Matthew Fogg-a Day in the (Ongoing) Life In August of 1968, the Beatles released 'Hey Jude' as the inaugural single on their new Apple Records label. The conventional 'wisdom' at that time was that artists seldom-if ever-involved themselves in business matters, and certainly never to the extent of forming their own label! But the release of 'Hey Jude' turned conventional wisdom on it's head for quite another reason. Clocking in at over seven minutes, the song shattered the expectation that singles (or 45's, as they were known back in the day!) would fit the comfortable formula of a nice, radio-friendly two-to-three minutes. The Beatles-specifically Paul McCartney in this instance-refused to compromise what they felt was their artistic vision. 'Hey Jude' remained unedited, and the rest, as they say, is history. A little over ten years later, on November 6, 1978, Matthew Fogg was born. While it may appear heretical to some to correlate the two events in ANY way, I'd actually venture the opinion that the 'Fabs' themselves would have recognized a kindred spirit! I'll return to this point, and a few others, shortly. For the time being, however, let me sketch a brief biography of the subject in question! Matthew Fogg's musical journey began as a trumpet player. His interest in the piano didn't develop until high school, when he began listening to greats such as Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, and Keith Jarret. These legendary jazz musicians, among others, helped Matt discover a new passion to pursue...jazz piano. Matthew attended the University of New Hampshire, earning a degree in Music Education with an emphasis on piano (concentrating on jazz, as well as classical). He's performed in university ensembles and had the opportunity to play with legendary jazz musicians like Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Bud Shank, and Jimmy Heath. During his UNH years, Matthew began a musical collaboration with vocalist and fellow student Nicole Hajj, crafting all her vocal arrangements. They quickly compiled an extensive repertoire of original arrangements of classic jazz pieces. Following graduation, Matthew embarked upon a career as an educator, working as the choral director at Morse High School in Bath, Maine. He also maintained a performing career, playing (with Nicole) at respected clubs and upscale restaurants throughout New England. Today, Matthew serves as the Spiritual Arts Coordinator at the United Church of Christ in Bath. He directs the choir, fosters musical education throughout the congregation, has organized an ongoing 'coffeehouse', and recently introduced Taize services to the community. He is, quite simply, the proverbial whirling dervish! In his 'spare' time, Matthew keeps up a rigorous schedule of performing, arranging, and composing. His partnership with Nicole reached a recent pinnacle with the recording of a live CD in the fall of 2004. The release of 'Live at the Azure Café' is projected for March, 2005. This project has already resulted in two television appearances on the WCSH/NBC news magazine show '207'. Hearing a copy of the rough mixes from the Azure recordings prompted an immediate invitation from Maine Public Radio luminary Rich Tozier to perform a 'live in the studio' concert on his Friday Night Jazz program. Matthew, Nicole, and the band from the Azure show (Lucas Cantor, guitarist, Andy Rice, bassist, Shawn Boissonneault on drums, and the legendary clarinetist Brad Terry) performed on the January 14th program. Rich Tozier praised the freshness and originality of Matthew's arrangements several times throughout the broadcast-a recurring theme among those who've heard this group of fine musicians! Although he's certainly enjoying the results thus far, and remains excited at the further prospects for this project, Matthew is already thinking ahead. In fact, he's usually thinking so far ahead that he's juggling three or four ideas simultaneously. Matthew has made the determination to fully commit to his music, and that means his vision will not be compromised by categorical labels or stifled by convention. He may well be the funniest guy I know (I still hope to see him do stand-up at least once!), but when it comes to music, he is integrity and creativity personified. I suspect before his career winds down, many, many years from now, it's quite possible he will have made his mark wherever he sets his sights: jazz, gospel, blues, pop-or any cross-pollinated combination of the above! It's all these reasons, and more, that lead me to believe my initial contention whole-heartedly. As Ravi Shankar (mentor to at least one of the aforementioned 'Fabs') once said, 'I believe the sound is God'. I have no doubt that Matthew Fogg is hearing 'that' sound... Stephen McKay 2/16/05 The Hermitage, Orr's Island.