Gracious, garrulous and generously talented, Llew Matthews, longtime Nancy Wilson music director, brings his brand of smooth and cool to the Idyllwild Summer Concert Series.
New York City-born Matthews does it all — pianist, arranger, singer and conductor. He also tells good stories about his musical evolution from ukulele player at four to French horn in junior high, to piano and composing as a scholarship student at NYC High School of Music and Arts. Not much later, Matthews was arranging by hand for a 37-piece band, and attending the New York College of Music.
In interview, Matthews asked, “What do Nancy Wilson, the King of Thailand, Jackie McLean, Frank Sinatra and the Armed Forces Bicentennial Band have in common?” And of course the answer is Matthews. A service stint with the Air Force in Southeast Asia, playing French horn and arranging, had Matthews writing charts for the 97-piece and 40-member chorus of the Bicentennial Band. Sinatra and Ray Charles sang with the band on several occasions. Matthews also arranged some well-known Thai songs commissioned by the King of Thailand.
Wilson came later in Matthews’ career, in 1987. For 20 years Matthews toured the world, recorded with and served as Wilson’s musical director, pianist, conductor and arranger. In that capacity, he and Wilson performed with symphony orchestras and the big bands of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Woody Herman in venues including Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. Matthews’ arrangements played a big part in Wilson’s Grammy wins as best female jazz vocalist for her CDs “R.S.V.P” and “Turned to Blue.”
Matthews also taught jazz ensemble at UCLA’s jazz program under the leadership of guitar great Kenny Burrell.
Now Matthews and company bring their brand of hip harmony, righteous rhythm and sophisticated soul to Ken Dahleen’s ISCS. Dancers of all music modes and movement modalities, take note. There will be something here for you.
With Matthews on his Thursday, July 9, ISCS gig are singer Peggie Perkins; trumpet/flugelhorn, sax and whistler Paul Seaforth; guitar and vocalist Tome Bevin; and drummer Jimmy Ford. Matthews and ensemble take the stage at 7 p.m. Local sax man Paul Carman opens for Matthews at 6 p.m. on the ISCS stage at the Idyllwild Community Park.
The event is free to the public.