Aug 15, 2021
At just 20 years old, Matthew Whitaker has already shared his powerful story and ascent to the biggest stages in jazz with 60 Minutes and The Today Show; but on the young star pianist’s new album Connections (on Resilience Music Alliance), he takes a bold step forward in defining for himself, on his own terms and in his own words, what it truly means to be Matthew Whitaker.
After being born three months premature and blind, Whitaker has become perhaps the ultimate piano prodigy, recording and playing on stages all over the world before the age of ten. His new album allows him to share his musical connections with his friends and mentors (Jon Batiste, Regina Carter, Johnathan Blake, producer Derrick Hodge), the legends he studies like Thelonious Monk, Chick Corea and Dave Brubeck, and the public at large. Songs like “Stop Fighting” “Acceptance” and “It Will Be Okay” make powerful statements about the state of the world, showing his support for the Black Lives Movement while encompassing solidarity with the worldwide protests against unnecessary violence and bullying.
Podcast 837 is my conversation with Matthew, recorded the day Connections dropped. He discusses his song selection, his desire to continue studying (he begins his third year at Julliard this fall, the first blind jazz student in their history) and to adapt his love of all music – jazz, gospel, R&B, and more into his music. Musical selections include “Bye-Ya,” his duet with Jon Batiste, “Spain,” and “Stop Fighting.”