David K. Mathews has played with acclaimed artists like Tower of Power and Etta James, and now holds down the keyboard chair in legendary guitarist Carlos Santana's band. This month he released his new solo album David K Mathews: The Fantasy Vocal Sessions Vol. 1. For these reasons and more, he's our TALENT SCOUT Artist of the Month.
NAME: David K. Mathews
HOMETOWN: Oakland, CA.
MUSICAL TRAINING: Self-taught, on-the-job training, and private piano study with various professional pianists.
FIRST GIGS: Assorted rock, funk, soul and disco bands in the San Francisco Bay Area starting around 1975.
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: The Beatles, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ennio Morricone, John Barry, Michel Legrand, Burt Bacharach, Jimmy Webb,The Wrecking Crew, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Sly and the Family Stone, Santana, War, James Brown, Dyke and the Blazers, Tower Of Power, The Meters, Johnny Guitar Watson, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Al Green, Johnnie Taylor, Tyrone Davis, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Bill Withers, Glen Campbell, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Bobby “Blue" Bland, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Elis Regina, Edith Piaf, Eddie Palmieri, Cal Tjader, Toots Thielemans, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Nelson Riddle, Gil Evans, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Headhunters, Return To Forever, Jeff Beck, Frank Zappa, Arsenio Rodriguez, Cachao, Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliffm,Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, The Who, Elton John, Queen, The Allman Brothers, The Eagles, Chicago, Crosby, Stills & Nash. Also classical music from Bach through the early moderns, especially Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, Rimsky Korsakov, Scriabin, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Albeniz, Falla, Rodrigo, Oliver Messiaen.
PIANO INFLUENCES: James P Johnson, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Errol Garner, Nat Cole, Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Phineas Newborn Jr, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, George Duke, Professor Longhair, James Booker, Mac "Dr. John" Rebennack, Leon Russell, Jimmy Yancy, Pete Johnson, Richard Tee, Billy Preston, Ray Charles, Charlie Palmieri, Noro Morales, Lili Martinez, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Vladimir Horowitz, Sviatoslov Richter, Artur Rubenstein, Alicia de Larrocha, Martha Argerich, Marc Andre Hamelin.
HAMMOND ORGAN INFLUENCES: Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Don Patterson, Larry Young, Billy Preston, Ethel Smith, Earl Grant, Booker T. Jones, Jon Lord, Gregg Rolie, Chester “CT” Thompson.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW: Lots of McCoy Tyner, with the John Coltrane quartet and his own groups, lots of Jimmy Smith, various versions of Joe Zawinul's “Directions”, Louis Kentner performing Mily Balakirevs’ “Reverie."
MY BIG BREAK: Replacing Chester Thompson as the keyboard player with Tower Of Power in 1983 at 23 years old put me on the national stage for the first time.
LATEST PROJECTS: On Feb 2, 2018, I released my first album as a leader in 15 years. David K Mathews: The Fantasy Vocal Sessions Vol. 1" is the first in a five to six CD series. It’s basically a bunch of informal get togethers with some of the great vocalists that I’ve worked with since 1979 through the present, backed by my favorite players. Volume 1 is mostly standards and ballads, recorded in two days with no rehearsal and only 1 to 2 takes per tune - pretty much an "old school," small group jazz recording where I play strictly acoustic piano. I think it’s turned out very well. Further volumes in the series will explore my eclectic tastes and will be more “electric.” They will delve in to pop, rock, soul, R&B, blues, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music, played by all of the wonderful musicians that have been a part of my musical life here in the Bay Area.
FAVORITE KEYBOARDS AND WHY? With Santana, I use either a Yamaha CP4, CP5 or CP1 piano, with a Motif XF6 and a Chopped Hammond B3 organ. I try to keep it simple. All of the CP series pianos are very good, though the CP1 seems to have the best samples and “finger to ear” connection. That’s very important to me. The Motif is a good “Swiss Army Knife” keyboard. The Santana gig is 70% organ, 20% piano and electric piano, and some synth things. Lots of strings, some clavinet, Farfisa, etc. I’d like to stay on top of the cutting edge sounds etc, but we are usually so busy on the road traveling, and then learning new tunes (daily) that there’s limited time for programming and futzing about with sounds. I’ve got a new Montage 7 at home, and frankly I don’t even have the time to get into it yet. The music and the playing come first. Thankfully, it’s a “playing” gig more than it is “programming” one.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? Santana Tour 2018 and David K Mathews: The Fantasy Vocal Sessions Vol.2!
ADVICE TO THE NEXT GENERATION: Listen to everything. There’s so much amazing music out there in the world, and because of the digital revolution, so much of it now is more accessible than ever! Find what speaks to you, and use that as your point of departure for your own creative self-expression. Also, don’t be afraid to emulate others too. Ravel once said, “If you are trying to create something original, you’ll never be more original then when you are being true to the model that is your inspiration, because your own originality cannot but help to reveal itself." B.B. King once replied when asked what he liked to do to relax, he said “Watch Joe Pass instructional videos!"
Follow David on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dave.mathews.16