Matt Langley, Thank you.
Respected Seacoast area reed player and educator, Matt Langley, and his wife Pamela are moving to California to be closer to family.
On behalf of the Seacoast Jazz Society, I reached out to our local jazz musicians for stories, comments, and pictures involving Matt. The intent was to create a collaborative 'Thank You' for all of the wonderful music he's provided to the people of the Seacoast for so many years.
In the plea-for-help email to the jazz community, I wrote that "my making shit up isn't going to cut it this time." Man, was I ever right.
Their response is a true testament to Matt by his peers. As the pictures, stories, poems and a song came in, it became evident that I had no idea of the impact he's had on jazz in the Seacoast. I also realized I was out of my league trying to thank him adequately. Thank you to everyone who responded, you cats make this work.
First up are the words. We'll state the musician's name, a snippet of who they are (as if you don't already know), and their message about and/or to Matt.
Before we start with Russ Grazier, I'd like to relay a comment Russ made to me a month or so back. When discussing how fortunate we are to have all of the great musicians that we do in the area Matt's leaving obviously came up:
You don't think of Matt as an elder, but he's been the elder statesman of the scene. All of these guys have been in awe of his musicianship, we all look up to him. He's really cultivated a lot of younger musicians. He's taught us how to be good caretakers of the local jazz scene. Much in the way Tommy Gallant taught all of us when we were much younger.
Matt has been a central figure at PMAC for more than a decade and we were prepared to miss him dearly, but one thing we learned during the early days of the pandemic shutdown is that Matt is not only a fantastic teacher, he's an amazing REMOTE teacher. So we've invited Matt to stay on the PMAC faculty, teaching remotely from out west and we won't be losing him after all! That said, I will miss hanging out with Matt, playing occasional gigs with him, and continually learning more and more about jazz music and history from him. I took lessons with Matt for about a year to work on my playing and I learned firsthand what a caring, thoughtful, engaged music teacher he is. And he is the most generous, joyful, and fun musician I've ever performed with. I know he'll be back from time to time to visit, and I'll see him online, but man will I miss his laugh and sharing a beer anytime we want. Wishing him the best in his next great adventure!
- Russ Grazier, CEO, Portsmouth Music and Arts Center (PMAC), musician, educator, and friend of Matt's.
“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” - Hunter Thompson
Matt Langley is wise far beyond his years, and not because he is particularly young. Hell, I've been getting inspiration from his playing since I was barely a teenager, and I'm not particularly young. He has been in 100% of the projects that I have personally started in the Seacoast and he has been in most of the bands I've loved in the Seacoast. He has an uncanny ability to improvise phrases that are somehow simultaneously bizarre, melodic, subversive, beautiful, lighthearted. transcendent, and self-mocking, all without visible effort and with an alarmingly high batting average. He's a one-off and we will not be seeing another like him. We'll miss you, numbnuts. That grandkid better come out good.
- Mike Effenberger, composer, musician, educator, and friend of Matt's.
I thought it best to write a collection of Haiku's for Matt:
Creating life with his breath
Speaks with golden tones
State the melody. . .
Bend, scratch, slide, twist, wheeze, and pop
His playing is deep
He's the altered dom
resolving to the tonic
in a cadenza
Seeking for the truth
Spontaneous risk taker
You're one of the best
To some, a good friend
To many, a gracious sage
His name? . . . Matt Langley
I'm gonna miss him
More than he probably knows
And though come what may. . .
Matt will remain cool
The sub-dominant minor
In a Beatles song
- Bryan Killough, musician, educator, and friend of Matt's.
There are a few people in your lifetime that really have a positive influence on you and help shape the direction of your thought. For me, Matt Langley is one of those special individuals who through their actions help point the way to a better life - it is only necessary to take initiative and do the right thing at the right time. If you are looking for an example of a well rounded individual, Matt fits the part with excellence. Family man, athlete, musician, educator, philosopher, and all around good guy, he is the kind of friend we all enjoy having around. We will miss his musical presence here on the Seacoast, but take satisfaction in the thought that he will be keeping the jazz flame burning in other parts of the world. Safe travels to you and your loved ones, Matt. Best wishes from a big fan!
- Charlie Jennison, musician, composer, educator, and friend of Matt's.
Here’s one of my favorite Langley memories:
I showed up to the Press Room to see Effenberger’s band F-tet (or Eff-tet??). My brother was in that group before he left for Miami so I’d heard the music and caught them before. This time, I knew Chris wouldn’t be around. I think I was still a student at UNH, so I didn’t know these guys well yet. As I was instructed to do by my elders, I brought my horn everywhere in case sitting in was a possibility. Mike asked me to come up and join them- they were playing his arrangement of Nirvana’s ‘In Bloom’. Langley graciously shared his corner with me so I could follow the chart. This tune gets pretty raucous so it was very exciting. I was just glad to be reading the chart down with those guys. When we got to the solo section Langley looked up at me, and I at him, and in a split second he knew that we should take the solo together. At that moment I was nervous but I’ll never forget how excited Matt was when, without hesitating, he looked at me, smiled, and nearly shouted, “Let’s Play!” It was the most comforting and inviting thing I’d ever felt on stage. It became a model for how I want others to feel when they take the stage with me. Above all, I felt included and supported. I’ve reflected on that moment a lot over the last decade and really treasure Langley for his unwavering love and support. I’m gonna miss him very much. He’s really helped me feel at home here in the Seacoast and has been a constant source of inspiration. Thank you Matt! I love you!
- Eric Klaxton, musician, composer, educator, and friend of Matt's.
I remember the first time I ever met Matt. He was playing with his group at the Barley Pub and handing out free beer coupons to everyone in the audience. This means, he was buying the entire bar a round or two of drinks, at a gig where he was probably making $20. That, in my mind, sums up someone who I've come to respect and love as a musician and human being. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around not being able to play music with Matt on a regular basis and hanging with Pam before and after the show. I know this won't be the end of our relationship with the Langleys, but we sure will miss you and everything you do for the community around here. Best wishes Matt & Pam!
-Nick Mainella, musician, educator, and friend of Matt's.
One of my first jazz mentors, Dave Tonkin, and Matt have been lifelong friends, and Dave would bring Matt in to play with the student combo I was in, in High School, in the 80’s. Thanks to this connection, and then some other mutual friends, we have gotten to play together ever since. We did Chris Humphrey’s CD release party with Matt Wilson and Martin Wind (Matt Wilson and Langley had played together for years with Charlie Kohlhase), and Matt got me on this sweeeeeet gig we had every New Year’s Eve at the White Barn in Kennebunk. And sometimes the only thing that would get me through some of our long wedding gigs was the prospect of playing some duo jazz during cocktail hour.
Matt Langley is an inspirational guy. He is hilarious. He loves to get to know people, to debate, but he LISTENS just like he listens as a musician when you are jamming together. He challenges you, but invitingly, in fun, never competitively. I have gotten to hear some of his students at Concord Community Music School and PMAC and he is amazing with them, pushing them, but finding out what each student was into, musically, and integrating that into the music that he taught.He must have invested SO much time thinking about each musician’s needs the way he did, but he really lights a fire in them.
Also, the way he is a mentor as well as a band member with the group of musicians a generation or two younger than us, Klaxtons, Effenberger, Po Boys, Nihco, Peiffer… that is priceless. I mean, Matt can hold his own in “sax battle” situations, as I saw playing with him in some of those sax summits Jon Lorentz put together, but he can also play this intricate music that “the kids” are writing, and treat it with the reverence that he would treat Ellington’s music. I’m going to miss Matt a lot but I know (hope) he will be visiting a ton.
-Mark Shilansky, musician, educator, and friend of Matt's.
All the best Matt! You’ve always been such a positive force in my life. I remember the first time I met you on a hiking trail in Ossipee NH. You were wearing a “Port City All Stars” tee shirt and you encouraged me to check out the band in Kennebunkport and to sit in, which I did, with fear and intimidation. Thanks for giving me hope early on and having my back! Also, I’ll always be inspired, remembering when you would get up early to practice and then ride your bike to your day gig in Dover. Even though you got into that horrible accident, you took it in stride, healed up and kept going strong. Did I say inspired? Much love and respect to you, Pam and the kiddos! Cali is lucky to have you!
- Gary Gemmiti, musician and friend of Matt's.
Matt, it's been a pleasure knowing you ... playing with you in various venues. You've been an inspiration to many musicians as you will continue to be. May you and Pam have an adventurous and rewarding Journey To The West.
[Richard composed and produced a song for Matt & Pam. Please click the song title to give "Journey To The West" a listen.]
- Richard Gardzina, musician, composer, educator, and friend of Matt's.
Before we get to the pictures, I do have a thought about Matt, and I'm not just making shit up. Matt and I spoke last year, and he told me a bit about he and Pam's courtship. The short version is that they met at a blues show he was playing. Shortly after, she moved out west. He followed, they returned together to the Seacoast, worked, played, lived, loved, and raised a family. Clearly, following his heart was the thing to do. We'll miss having him here in the Seacoast, but we know he's making the right choice. Matt Langley's a master of improvisation. In the audience we rarely know where the music's going, maybe he's not sure either. But, he and we, know he'll bring it back home. It's not hard to see the symmetry in Matt and Pam going to California.
Matt, Enjoy your family and the west coast. I know we've not heard the last of you.
- Mike Guy, Fan of Matt's.
The following words and photo are from Mark Shilansky: