Contemporary jazz saxophonist Matt Willard discovers a tropical sound in an unlikely locale: Nashville
His debut single, “Por la Orrilla del Mar,” offers an enticing taste of what’s to come.
While Nashville is primarily known as a launch pad for country music careers, Music City also has a burgeoning jazz scene. Trekking south from his Virginia home, saxophonist Matt Willard entered a Nashville recording studio with some of the city’s finest contemporary jazz musicians to record his debut single, “Por la Orrilla del Mar.” Willard wrote the single that just dropped on the Creative Soul Jazz imprint and produced it with the label’s Eric Copelandand Sunset Blvd. Studio’s Steve Dady. The exotic track showcasing the tenor saxman’s impassioned play is the first in a series of singles and accompanying videos that will precede Willard’s first album that is expected to drop by the end of the year.
A staccato Latin rhythm constructed by drummer Steve Brewster and bassist Jacob Lowery is the pedestal for the lush melodies of “Por la Orrilla del Mar.” Guitarist Dave Cleveland adds to the harmony while keyboardist Jason Webb shines when trading solos with Willard, who’s deft saxplay runs the gamut of emotion: from intense, raw and emotional to restrained, poised and harnessed. A horn section underscores and illumines Willard’s saxophone excursions.
Willard struggled to come up with a title for the single that has Caribbean nuances and conjures up soothing beach scenes. He felt it needed a Spanish title, but since he doesn’t speak the language, he turned to family members for help.
“After spending many hours trying to come up with the perfect song title, the idea to ask my uncle popped into my head. He speaks fluent Spanish along with many other languages. I sent him the track, and he and my aunt picked up on the Latin feel to the song, and ultimately, they came up with ‘Por la Orrilla Del Mar.’ It means ‘by the sea shore.’”
Willard’s soulful and inspired sound meshes perfectly with the ethos of Copeland’s label. Creative Soul Jazz is a purveyor of improvisational jazz that they describe as “different and has spiritual roots.”
“As a label and production company, our mission is to use our God-given talents to show the beauty, the intensity, the passion and the spiritual effect of jazz. Our souls are rooted firmly in the freedom and pure art form of jazz,” said Copeland.
Willard began playing baritone sax in sixth grade and switched to tenor after graduating high school. Having played in jazz ensembles as well as his school’s marching band, he landed professional gigs playing at restaurants, special events and weddings. Willard tested the waters by issuing several recording projects locally, but teaming up with Dady, Copeland and Creative Soul Jazz is about taking his craft to the national level. “Por la Orrilla del Mar” offers a promising glimpse of what’s to come from this artist.
Willard said, “I had a blast recording in Nashville and cannot wait to see everyone’s reaction to the music as we release it. I hope that these songs touch as many lives as possible like they did mine when writing them. I am truly blessed to have a great team working with me to write and produce this record. Collaborating with Nashville session players is an amazing experience. The entire production team has knocked it out of the park. The album is going to be great!”
For more information, please visit www.mattwillardsax.com.