Toronto-born, New York-based guitarist Matthew Stevens’ latest project is a solo acoustic guitar album called Pittsburgh.
The intimate, unadorned recording was always a “maybe someday” prospect, until both the pandemic and a broken elbow set up the perfect circumstances to finally do it.
Stevens began working on the project in September of 2020 while staying in his wife’s family’s hometown of Pittsburgh, still busy teaching remotely at Baltimore’s Peabody Institute. He played daily on a vintage Martin 00-17, a small-body mahogany guitar, and came up with a collection of ideas and sketches that could turn into songs.
With the help of drummer and producer Eric Doob, he made preliminary versions of some of the material for the Jazz Gallery’s Lockdown Sessions video series. After breaking his arm in a bicycling accident, finishing all of those songs then became a major part of his rehab.
As the album took shape, Stevens knew it had to be a fully unaccompanied recording, with no overdubs or sound layering.
“I’ve always felt that playing acoustic is a great way to develop a touch and a connection to an instrument,” Stevens says. “There’s no apparatus that helps you be expressive, play dynamically, or create ambience on an acoustic guitar. So when you develop that, it’s something you can carry with you into playing electric.”
Listen to the single Blue Blues below.
The Grammy-nominated guitarist and composer has previously released two solo albums, Woodwork (2015) and Preverbal (2017), along with a pair of recordings by the In Common collective co-led with tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III. Since arriving in New York in 2007, Stevens has also collaborated with some of the most exciting artists in contemporary jazz. In some of his most high-profile work, Stevens played guitar on Spalding’s critically acclaimed 2016 album Emily’s D+Evolution and went on to co-produce her two latest records Exposure and 12 Little Spells. He’s also a member, songwriter and co-producer of Terri Lyne Carrington’s Grammy-nominated band Social Science. He has worked with groups led by Dave Douglas, Linda May Han Oh, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah and more.
Here’s the track listing for Pittsburgh:
- Purpose of a Machine
- Can Am
- Foreign Ghosts
- Northern Touch
- Ending is Beginning
- Blue Blues
Pittsburgh arrives Oct. 1 via Whirlwind Recordings.