Matt Booth: Letting the Music Happen with Extended
By Susan FrancesFor bassist Matt Booth, who joins the jazz trio Extended, music evolves from letting it happen. Similar to ad-libbing in an acting class or stage performance, Booth relishes the experience of riffing freely with musicians. Being a member of Extended, which partners him with pianist Oscar Rossignoli and drummer Brad Webb, has enabled Booth to nurture his impulses to express himself freely and sees him enjoying every minute of his journey.
“The trio formed very organically,” he attests, “out of doing a one-off gig that Brad had booked. It was not something where we sought one another out to form a band. Prior to playing with them as a trio, I certainly loved playing with them whenever we’d end up on gigs together. After that first gig that we did play as a trio, we all felt like something clicked musically, and we started getting together with the intention of everyone bringing in their own original material to work on. It evolved very naturally from then until now.”
Extended’s self-titled debut release in 2016 introduced audiences to the trio’s kinetic rapport, putting the listener in the position of following along as the members make annotations and assertions and overlap their responses. It is like being in a room full of guests as each participant is open to speak. Sometimes all three voices are speaking at once, and at other times, just one or two make their thoughts audible. Always inveigling the audience through their interaction.
“Recording the debut release in 2016 was exciting,” he remarks, “and a different kind of recording than I had done before. Rather than recording in a studio, we played in an old church called the Marigny Opera House. So the setting and the process was unique.”
He notes, “We had only been playing together for a few months at that point, so that album captures an early stage of our development. Since the time of this recording, we have evolved tremendously, simply because we’ve played together so much more since then. We’ve become more intentional and conscious of HOW we want to play together, and we’ve developed a way of working together that feels very comfortable and efficient.”
Extended’s sophomore release Harbinger in 2019 foddered their creative leanings, paving the way for their 2022 release Without Notice, which further illustrates the trio’s propensity to engage in dynamic riffing. The recording features compositions written by each of the members of Extended, and opens the scores to making them a collaborative effort.
Booth availed his own score “The Gardens” to be a collaborative effort as Webb and Rossignoli each add their parts to the arrangement. “The inspiration for that song was bassist Charlie Haden,” Booth provides. “I think of all the songs I’ve written, this one is the most overtly indebted to his melodic compositional style. Granted, the song started out more as a traditional jazz ballad, but with Oscar and Brad’s input, it evolved into the arrangement represented on this album. The title comes from the first public performance of the song, which was done as a duo with saxophonist Byron Asher at the New Orleans Botanical Garden.”
As Booth examines, performing live is an essential part of Extended’s viability: “For this band, performing live is where the songs take shape. We try to be very loose with playing live and let the songs develop spontaneously. When we’re in the studio, we want the forms/structures of the songs to be dialed in, but this dialing in comes from playing them live time after time and learning what we like best from prior performances.”
Preparing Booth to feel comfortable in a collaborative environment with Extended was playing in the guitar trio Some Antics prior, as he explains the differences and similarities between the two experiences. “The music is quite different,” he discerns, “and the sound/texture/space of the guitar is quite different than the piano, but the way that Some Antics works on music and prepares arrangements in a democratic way is very similar to how Extended works.”
While recording with Extended, Booth kept himself open to recording with other musicians. One of whom was New Orleans-based John “Papa” Gros, that Booth cites made an indelible impact on him.
He recalls, “I met John in 2018 when he was looking for a new bassist, and a mutual friend referred him to me. Playing with John has been great for me to develop my electric bass playing, and in getting to study and absorb the foundational New Orleans R&B and funk music, such as Dr. John and The Meters.”
“Working with John,” he highlights, “has influenced the way I work with other musicians in a leadership role. John is an incredibly organized, motivated, and communicative bandleader, and he’s taught me all sorts of things in the non-musical side of developing a career as a musician.”
Performing with John “Papa” Gros also strengthened his affection for the music culture in New Orleans. He reveals, “I actually grew up in northern Virginia, and then lived in Pittsburgh for undergraduate and graduate studies. I chose to settle in New Orleans because it felt like time for a change after ten years in Pittsburgh.”
“The musical opportunities in New Orleans were exciting to me,” he enthuses. “And not dealing with bad winter weather was exciting as well. I’d say the big difference in the music culture between New Orleans and Pittsburgh, or pretty much anywhere else in this country, is the way that music is a pleasantly unavoidable part of daily life among its residents. There is music at weddings, funerals, music happening at most bars/restaurants/cafes, music festivals happening most weekends during certain seasons. It’s a constant presence and was deeply missed during the height of the pandemic.”
He resumes, “It’s something that tourists seek out when they visit, which in turn keeps the local musicians very active. The music here has affected and influenced me greatly – the amount of playing opportunities has helped me grow as a musician. Playing jazz as a social music, for people that are dancing and really interacting with it, has given me a deeper understanding of how to play the music and connecting the dots from the earlier/traditional styles to the present day.”
Booth embraced jazz early in his life as he recollects, “I’ve been attracted/interested in jazz from a very early age because my dad is a huge jazz fan. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an admirer of the music of Monk, Miles, and Coltrane. Some of the albums I remember liking at an early age, and thus having a long relationship with, are Money Jungle (from) Duke/Mingus/Max, Saxophone Colossus (from) Sonny Rollins, and Birth of the Cool (from) Miles.”
“My interest in jazz has been a constant in my life,” he declares. “In high school, I started playing in jazz band and learning about playing jazz bass from a private teacher. In college, I started taking the studying and practicing much more seriously.”
His choice to play bass was determined early on as well as he shares, “I started playing electric bass in middle school in order to form a rock band with my best friends. I think we formed the band and decided I’d play bass before I had learned or even owned one. I loved playing the bass from this time on; it was a great fit for me. I started playing upright bass in college and developed a similar passion.”
He reflects, “I have grown as a bassist and composer both from my time in New Orleans as a freelance musician, and from working in Extended. This band has made me more confident as a composer, and has shown me the value and pleasure of collaborating with people you trust and admire.”
Booth finds himself in a place where he is surrounded by people he trusts and admires. It would explain why he enjoys the simple offerings of life, vowing, “I enjoy spending time with my wife and dog, and I’m a big fan of film and NBA basketball.”
Booth basks in letting the music evolve as it happens, thriving in the experience of riffing freely with musicians. Being an integral part of Extended has enabled him to nurture his creative leanings, as he enjoys every minute of what is, potentially, a never-ending journey.
About Susan Frances:
Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in eastern Long Island, I always enjoyed writing and made several contributions to my high school literary magazine, The Lion’s Pen. Influenced by writers of epic novels including Colleen McCullough and James Clavell, I gravitated to creative writing. After graduating from New York University with a BA in Liberal Arts, I tried my hand at conventional jobs but always returned to creative writing. Since 1998, I have been a freelance writer and have over three thousand articles to various e-zines including: Jazz Times, Blogcritics, Yahoo Voices, Goodreads.com, Authors and Books (books.wiseto.com), TheReadingRoom.com, Amazon.com, Epinions.com, Fictiondb.com, LibraryThing.com, BTS emag, BarnesandNoble.com, RomanticHistoricalReviews.com, AReCafe.com, Hybrid Magazine, and BookDepository.com. In 2013 and 2014, I was a judge in the Orange Rose Writing Competition sponsored by the Orange County chapter of the Romance Writers of America located in Brea, California.