Critics At Large: Interview with Matt Dusk and Steve Macdonald

 

Talented singer Matt Dusk continues his exploration of the great songs of a bygone era with his new disc, out today, My Funny Valentine: The Chet Baker Songbook (EOne Entertainment). Dusk doesn’t call the album a ‘tribute’ record, which would suggest a copy or aping of Baker’s soft singing style, something that Dusk accurately maintains would not fit his crooner voice. Rather, he takes on Baker’s catalogue, and finds a happy ground between how he normally swings and how Baker sings. Dusk sat down with Critics At Large‘s David Churchill to discuss extensively the making of the CD. David also wanted to look a little behind the scenes of how the live performance side of Dusk comes to fruition, so he asked for Steve Macdonald – Dusk’s sax player, musical director and “wing man” – to sit in and offer his insights into that side of putting out a disc like this, and ultimately performing the material live.

dc: Matt, for you, what is the appeal of Chet Baker?

md: It’s the way he sounds when he sings. It’s very quiet and he sings without care. There’s a tenderness to his voice, almost simplistic. When I first started listening to Chet Baker as a teenager, I didn’t like his voice that much because it was counter-intuitive to what I was doing, which was crooning. Over the course of time, I started exploring different things and his voice became one of those “different  things”. His style actually helped me discover a new side of singing. Steve would always send me new songs, saying ‘hey, we should cover this or that song’. He proposed a Baker song, and I said, ‘I don’t want to do it’, because I guess I just wasn’t ready to receive them. So, for me, Chet Baker is a whole different way of singing.

dc: Steve, what intrigued you about Chet Baker that you thought Matt should be singing his songs?
sm: Initially, when he finally told me he did want to cover Chet, I was a little confused, because, as he just said, he’s on the other end of the singing spectrum in terms of delivering the song. And yet I always liked Baker and thought it would be a cool idea for Matt to sing them. What I thought was most interesting for Matt was that Chet sings just like he plays the trumpet. If you listen how he plays trumpet and you listen how he sings, it’s like they are one and the same. His approach is very similar regardless of whether he has the horn in his face or not. So, I thought, ‘if Matt’s checking this out, this could be interesting’. Up to then, Matt always sang in the Frank Sinatra way. But Chet sang like an instrumentalist would approach melody and lyric. So, I thought, ‘what a cool thing for Matt to do’.
md: Though the way Chet sings is incredible – the way he phrases – it’s very difficult for me to do that, because I grew up knowing how to do something completely lyrical, whereas Chet was very musical when he sang. It’s almost like, ‘here’s the written music, I’m going to play it like an instrument would read it.’ So I couldn’t necessarily go in and sing it the way he sang it, because it didn’t make sense to me the way he sang it musically, but the way he approaches how he uses his voice was very interesting to me. However, it was also very important to me that this not just be a tribute record where I imitated him. That’s why I called it The Chet Baker Song Book, because I still had to be me. That was the thing. I had to sing songs that would sound right for my voice. Because if I was to sing certain of his songs that would not work with my voice, it might sound cheesy.
dc: Steve and I were talking earlier, and I said to him, ‘Oh good, this isn’t a tribute album. I can still hear Matt in this. He’s trying a new approach, but he’s still Matt Dusk.’
Steve Macdonald blowing sax

md: It’s growing; it’s growth. Steve will tell you, the way he plays the saxophone will change over the years. You are going to learn new and exciting things, and you are also going to learn some bad habits too. Over time, hopefully you will figure out the bad ones and weed them out. But sometimes you don’t. Chet had a lot of bad habits that he never figured out (laughs). But myself, I’m kind of at a crossroads in my life so whatever I do it has got to be really good. Steve uses the analogy where if you have giant biceps you don’t go to the gym and keep working your biceps, you work on other muscle groups. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t continue to tone those biceps, just not as much. So, whatever project I work on, it’s still got to be what I do best. And yet still try to expand upon that.

sm: Yes, you’ve got to stretch yourself. Because artistically you just can’t always be doing the same stuff. There has to be growth, evolution and exploration, and that is where you find your expression because you will try stuff that will work and try stuff that will not work.
md: (laughs) And we are really good at doing stuff that doesn’t work! We are really good at failing at it too (laughs again). But you know, you look at so many different artists, but they are only remembered for a handful of things.
dc: That’s true. If I’m being frank, if you asked the most average of jazz listeners to name a Chet Baker song, “My Funny Valentine” is probably the only one they can come up with.
md: That’s true.
dc: Just in terms of how he’s known. I like Baker, and I have a CD or two, but listening to your CD I kept thinking, ‘oh yes, I forgot he did that.’ For example, the version you did of “Time After Time” was lovely.
md: Thank you.
dc: … but with so many of his songs, I forgot these were Chet Baker songs. He’s not Sinatra in terms of that pantheon of songs Frank’s known for. Which leads to my next question. How did you decide what songs of Baker’s to do if you didn’t want to do the ones “wrong” for your voice, as you suggested?
Chet Baker, later in life

md: This is part of the issue of choosing songs. I’m very good at crooning. My ability to scat and finding alternative ways to sing things is not my strength. My strength is to swing and sing the melody, so if the lyrical portion of the song was too short, it would turn into an instrumentalist’s record, because there are a lot of his songs that are meant for blowing and there are some of his songs meant for singing. So, one of the reasons I chose, for example, “Come Rain, Or Come Shine” was because growing up it was a favourite song for me that Sinatra did, and I also really liked Chet’s version too. Now when Chet did it (recorded near the end of his career) he did it very softly and simply. It was him, and I think bass and piano. But I wanted it to be lyrical within myself. So anything I knew I could sing well tended to be the songs he sang that I went ‘ha, that’s great. Maybe there’s some things we can take from it’. But it’s still a song that I think people should know that Chet Baker did. Again, coming back to the Songbook idea. One of the songs was “But Not For Me”, which was a Gershwin tune, and I just couldn’t get behind the lyrics to sing it. And yet, it was one of Chet’s most popular songs. So it came down to doing songs that I thought would still be cool and contemporary for today. We, uh, stretched it on some songs (laughs).

dc: When you were putting the album together and you decided, ‘I want to do a duet’, such as when you used Emilie-Claire Barlow, did you think, ‘this song needs two voices and this is the singer I want?’
md: Well, to be honest with you, that was a last minute decision. I wear two caps: the artistic cap and the business cap. And when I was sitting down with my new label, EOne Entertainment, we were talking about other artists they had on the label. EOne also represents Emilie. Originally, I wanted to do a duet with Molly Johnson because I really liked her voice, and she said, ‘sure, we’ll do it,’ but it just never happened. And I thought, ‘oh, I totally forgot about Emilie.’ We share similar people in our bands. I saw her show about a year ago and really liked it, so I pitched the idea. And, it was just a dream come true. I mean, the way I envisioned the song, “Embraceable You”, I thought ‘it’s a nice song’. We did a quick take of it, never intending to use it on the disc. But then I played it back and it worked out so beautifully, that I just had to use it. And then we thought ‘let’s get [trumpeter and flugelhorn player] Guido Basso to melody on the verse. In the end, it wasn’t what we planned, but it worked out way beyond expectations.  It’s one of my favourite tracks.
dc: Arturo Sandoval, how did he come to play trumpet on the CD?
Trumpeter Arturo Sandoval

md: The way the whole Baker Songbook project finally came together was while I was experimenting with what to do for the new album. I had recorded a bunch of contemporary covers, people like Billy Joel to Joe Cocker, Bryan Adams to Norah Jones, just to see what would fit my voice, and I also recorded a whole bunch of old tunes. Terry Sawchuck, who helped me produce the record, got 30 songs from me. I asked him, ‘which ones do you like?’ He said, ‘I hate all the new tunes you are doing. Your voice is suited to the old stuff. I said, ‘okay.’ I sat down with my manager and we talked about why I would want to do an album of “older material”. There had to be a reason beyond the fact that is what works with my voice. I was talking about Arturo to someone about something completely different, and I said, ‘there are several artists I loved when I was growing up, why don’t we do a songbook of somebody who hasn’t been done’?And Chet Baker hadn’t been done in ages. We dove into his material and we immediately knew we needed a trumpet player, and Arturo was the first name that immediately came to my mind. Around that time he had a disc out called A Time For Love. On it, he played very softly. He doesn’t normally play that way, just like I normally don’t sing softly. It seemed just so right that we were both pursuing styles we weren’t known for, so I said, ‘let’s ask Arturo.’ And everybody said, ‘let’s get Chris Botti.’ They tried, but it never worked out. And so I said, ‘let’s go back to Arturo.’ And he was just fantastic to work with. As I said, he’s not known for that kind of performing, but I think he does an amazing job at it on the track.

dc: Since neither one of you were in your comfort zone on this, do you think you helped each other step outside what you normally do?
md: At the end of the day, as an artist, you are always sort of insecure, you are also a little vain, so you want to make sure what you do comes across as well done. I know Arturo worked very hard at it. He therefore really embraced that side of the music, but at the same time he put his own spin on it.
dc: I want to talk about you two, Steve and Matt …
md: … husband and wife (laughs).
dc: How did you two meet and how long have you been playing together?
sm: We met at York University [in Toronto] in 1999. I was performing in my end-of-the-year recitals, and at the end of my set, Matt walked up and said, ‘hey, you sound good. Do you want to play in my band?’ And I said, ‘sure.’
md: No you didn’t; you said no.
sm: I didn’t .
md: You certainly did. You said you didn’t have time for me …
dc: Well, you said you were like a married couple …

(all laugh)

sm: I had heard of Matt because a few of my friends were in his band. They would come back from the weekend, talking about the gig they had with Matt. I think Matt might have been having trouble with the sax player he was working with at the time, so he approached me. We gigged together for a couple years, but then the work dried up a bit. I was at a day job to make ends meet, and I got a phone call out of the blue from Matt saying, ‘we’re going to Las Vegas for a year. Can you do it?’ Part of it ended up being for a forgettable reality show that eventually broadcast on Fox in 2004 called The Casino.
Steve Macdonald and Matt Dusk, in 2007.

dc: Steve, you not only play saxophone in Matt’s band, you are also the Musical Director. Describe both sides of your job with Matt?

sm: I’d been working with Matt even before any of the record deals. He and I got tight, and he started to work closer with me on managing the ins and outs of the operation of the band before we recorded any of his albums, so we got to know each other, and got to know that I was somebody he could trust and depend on. When the transition was made to the major label, and all these new people were coming in, Matt said, ‘you’ve always been my guy, I’d like to you to continue to be my guy’. I walked into that relatively inexperienced, so it took me a bit of time to get the hang of it. But, what the job entails is putting all aspects of the live show together – I mean, what you see on stage. For example, getting musicians, doing arrangements that are needed for the live show, charting the music and rehearsing the band. Then, of course, when you are on stage, if there is anything odd going on, I’ll step in and make the adjustments, but of course Matt is pretty great at doing that himself. But if he’s too occupied in the performance, I’m pretty quick to jump in and address anything that needs addressing.
dc: Give me an example.
sm: It happens a lot when you are working with a band that is untested. For example, we travel to different countries and we need pick-up players. We fly in, exhausted, and we are in a rehearsal studio with a group of guys we’ve never played with before and I have to run the rehearsals. I send the music in advance, and sometimes they are prepared and sometimes they are not. My job, then, is to make sure they have the right idea about what they are supposed to do. When we get to the show and, for whatever reason, they are doing something particularly bone-headed or wrong, I have to intervene and correct them. It could be a drum groove, or it’s an element of arranging they are not getting. My task is to lean over and give them some direction to put them back on the right track.
dc: With Steve as your Musical Director, what freedom does that give you, Matt?
md: Just time. I don’t have the experience, or knowledge. It’s like in a car, different parts do different things. Steve can talk to all the parts and get them to work the way they are supposed to work.
sm: I speak “musician”.
md: Musicians, as in any trade, if you don’t know the lingo they understand then they don’t respect you. For example, I can get on stage and sing and dance, but if I don’t know how to come in on the downbeat of “one” then I’m useless to them. And we’ve both worked with singers who don’t have that ability, and they really shouldn’t call themselves professionals. Having Steve there allows me to work on being the front man, or marquee artist. In reality, whatever name you see on the marquee is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a good core group that make it happen. If you give me lots and lots and lots of time, I probably could chart out the music very slowly, but I just don’t have the time. And Steve’s expertise over the years has allowed him to become very efficient at it.
dc: Let’s switch back to the Baker disc. I saw on the liner notes that there were two orchestras.
md: Correct. We did the rhythm and horns…
sm: The big band part …
md: … In Toronto. And we overdubbed it with a full the orchestra we recorded in Russia.
dc: Russia?.
Matt performing onstage with Steve, in 2006

md: Mhmm. Economics breeds necessity [ed. essentially, it is cheaper to use a Russian orchestra than a North American one].

dc: Steve is listed as conductor in the notes.
sm: Of the big band only.
dc: Conducting, in this example. What does that entail? Have you conducted before?
sm: Yes, I’ve conducted for Matt before, but not often. Most of what we do doesn’t require it. It’s very rare that it is called upon. In this particular instance, since I’d spent so much time preparing the music – I was working with Matt. I was working with the arrangers. I was doing a bunch of the copying. A lot of this stuff I knew quite intimately by the time we actually got to the floor. Matt said, ‘you’re the right choice for this, so go up and do it’. I was up there conducting the big band. It was very necessary because there were all sorts of things going on such as time, tempo and metre changes. It’s all very technical stuff that can be a nightmare if you don’t have someone waving their arms at the front.
dc: Let’s talk about Baker himself. Before the interview started, Matt, you and I were talking about the tragic nature of Baker’s life. Did that have any draw for you to do the disc because he was such a troubled soul?
md: When I watched the Bruce Webber documentary, Let’s Get Lost (1988), it was kind of the roof on the building. I was debating if I was going to do this, so I thought ‘let’s just watch this story and see.’ After watching that and researching him, I would not use the word “tragic” to describe Chet Baker. I don’t find his life very tragic because everything he did, he did to himself. It wasn’t like something out of the nowhere happened to him. Everything was done by choice and in a strange way he was happy to make those choices. Seems like he never regretted anything. His was more a ‘that’s life’ kind of guy. But especially after watching Webber’s film I felt I understood the man more and therefore I could approach the vocals. I took away from that that he really didn’t care for much. For him, little was very sacred. I mean, be it his life, relationship with his family, with his lovers. In the film, his ex-partners make very clear how he was. When I was doing the vocals, it was like I sometimes had to step back and go, ‘maybe I shouldn’t care as much. Perhaps I should have a couple drinks and just do the song and see what happens’. Sometimes it would work; sometimes it wouldn’t.  I didn’t shoot up and do any crazy things (laughter), so yeah.
dc: What do you hope the listeners take away from the album?
md: I want the listeners to take away a sense of just awe. Not for me, though I am part of the record, but I want them to feel the same way I did when I first heard the finished CD, I thought this is just great music from absolutely everybody involved. And I want the listeners to walk away thinking ‘this is terrific, now let me find out more about this Chet Baker guy. Maybe I can go online and watch this Let’s Get Lost doc, and go wow, that guy’s amazing. Let me go listen to his stuff’.
dc: Finally, what gigs do you have coming up soon to promote the disc?

md: There’s a promo at First Canadian Place in Toronto at noon on the 12th. RUN now, if you’re reading this on the 12th at noon (loud laughter). On JazzFM (91.1) in Toronto that night at 7 PM we have a live to air concert. We’re playing on The Marilyn Dennis Show on the 14th, Valentine’s Day (CTV, 10 AM in Toronto). Also, on the 14th, we’re doing a free gig at Yonge-Dundas Square. March 23rd we play the Randolph Theatre in Toronto at Bathurst and College. It’s a gorgeous new venue that only holds abut 500 people. In the fall, we will start to tour the world with the disc. And then next year, a new album (laughs).

Album Review: My Funny Valentine: The Chet Baker Songbook

by

http://www.confrontmagazine.com

The first time that I listened to Matt Dusk’s new album “My Funny Valentine: The Chet Baker Songbook,” I was being domestic, cleaning my room and putting away laundry. Normally, this sort of work bores me out of my mind, and I like to have something going on to keep me entertained.

Within just a few minutes of playing the album, I found myself swaying back and forth while hanging clothes and humming along with the familiar tunes.

Chet Baker’s time was before I was born. He was popular first in the 1950s and his career spanned all the way to the 1980s, when I was a little baby. However, his music is iconic and I recognized several songs off Dusk’s cover album.

Dusk does an excellent job of introducing Baker’s music to a new generation. The handsome Canadian singer’s voice and style reminds me of Harry Connick, Jr. It’s the kind of soft, jazzy music that I would play while having a romantic dinner with my husband, while sipping tea by the fire on a chilly winter night, or while just trying to relax away the stress of the day. I can definitely see myself listening to this album often on my iPod while I try to escape for a little “me” time.

Discovering new music is always fun, but Dusk’s album reminds me that sometimes we can also enjoy re-discovering the classics. The cozy album is a remake of music that you don’t often hear on popular music radio stations, but that doesn’t mean that it should get left behind.

Dusk’s album, “My Funny Valentine: The Chet Baker Songbook” is set to be released February 12, 2013, just in time to make the perfect Valentine’s gift for your special someone.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

http://www.confrontmagazine.com/2013/02/album-review-my-funny-valentine-the-chet-baker-songbook-by-matt-dusk/

Performance on Breakfast TV Toronto

From CITYTV.com

“My Funny Valentine: The Chet Baker Songbook” is out today on iTunes and in store. Matt will be a part of Heart in the City a fabulous evening at Yonge-Dundas Square on Valentine?s Day from 5:30-7:30pm featuring his special live performance.

http://video.citytv.com/video/detail/2160232168001.000000/bt-toronto-matt-dusk-performs-part-1-of-2/

Performance on Canada AM Toronto

 

Catch the performance of MY FUNNY VALENTINE here

http://canadaam.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=862284&playlistId=1.1151617&binId=1.815913&playlistPageNum=1

What I wear: Matt Dusk talks Chet Baker, Sinatra and why he prefers his hair dirty

 

On his new album, My Funny Valentine: The Chet Baker Songbook, Canadian crooner Matt Dusk interprets Baker’s iconic repertoire, but not his laconic delivery. “Ultimately if you try to copy somebody, it’s always going to be a second-generation copy. The way I approached the songs was to make it about me doing them, my way.” Dusk also had a little help from his friends: Grammy-winner Arturo Sandoval, Juno winners Emily-Claire Barlow and Guido Basso and an 80-piece orchestra. With this record, the mid-century retro aficionado decided to press vinyl for the first time. “I think the album is conducive to that type of listening.”

Opposites attract  I idolize the way Chet Baker performs. He’s a guy who can basically get in there and sing so minimalist, not give any care to the way he sings, vs. where I come from, it’s all about study and give the big vibrato and the big point of view. Even stylistically he’s the opposite stage persona — casual T-shirts, where I do the full dressed-up look.

Suiting up to get into character  One of my favourite singers of all time is Frank Sinatra. It’s very evident in my voice, because I was also trained that way, to sing like him. The Rat Pack thing, it kind of is a costume, because we live in a generation now that has basically discarded anything that’s fancy. Jeans and a T-shirt and a sports jacket are now OK for formal wear. Unless it says “black tie” specifically, you can get away with that. But I love the idea of dressing up. It’s almost a caricature.

Making tracks  Recording Back In Town at Capitol Records, I dressed in a suit every day. It was too much of a dream to pass up the role because Studio A — everybody went in there — Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald. And wearing a suit was so conducive to it. But with My Funny Valentine, I’m producing the record, too, I’m on a mission. Roll out of bed totally creative and then on the computer until the very last minute, then run to the studio. I was posting it on U-stream; people could watch the record being thrown down, and people were writing that they’d never see me in a T-shirt! I have no in-between — I am either dressed to the nines, or dressed to the ones.

dusk
Style inspiration  It all goes back to Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock movies, even Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Men’s fashion really hasn’t changed all that much. What has changed is the cut of the pants. Sometimes the shoulders.

Suiting up  When I first got into the business I would buy vintage and second-hand suits. I’d go to men’s stores and find out what kinds of suits worked on me, and what brands, and then would find them online for $250 and get them tailored to fit. Now I wear Pal Zileri. I can wear the same suit six years, 12 years from now. I don’t like wearing baggy clothes. I like fitted things, even casually. That comes from the fact that my stage clothes are very tailored: I could gain 10 pounds and wouldn’t fit into them any more. When you’re wearing a suit, it should fit you like a glove.

Shoe-shine boy  The secret is patent leather shoes  because they look very well kept and they’re always shiny. Onstage,
it’s a depth perception of colour. If they were matte, over time they would just look tired. I get them at Aldo or Sacha, which I buy in the Netherlands because I go there quite a bit. You don’t have to pay a lot for shoes — just make sure you take care of them. And shoe trees!

Accessorizing  I have a lot of watches, probably 20. For men, it’s watches and shoes! Watches that people have given to me or that I’ve purchased abroad. The last was a gift to me, a Jaeger-LeCoultre, several years ago. It’s timeless (mind the pun). And I love cufflinks. I have a lot from where I bought most of the 1940s furniture for my house, a vintage store called Of Things Past. But it depends on the suit: a lot of modern suit arms are cut so tight that you can’t even have a French cuff, and you have to choose between wearing the cuff or the watch.

Five o’clock shadow around the clock  I never shave. I have a Wahl clipper from Walmart from, like, 1988, and keep it on the lowest setting because it’s meant for hair and use it once every seven or eight days. The reason why is that when I was younger — and even now — I have no depth to my face [stretches his cheeks back with his hands]. Especially when I was younger, I’d look like Odo from Deep Space Nine. I’d always get carded, so I stopped shaving. I’ve always had bad dry skin around my moustache, so I use that blue Nivea Creme. It works better than what I went to my dermatologist for.

Grooming (including the famous coif)  I am fickle and explore different products. Recently I was at an event for Chivas Regal as an emcee and as I was leaving, they handed me a bag of goodies like American Crew moulding wax. If someone looks at my hair and says it looks great, I think, “Thank god it’s dirty!” Day 2, Day 3 hair is the best. I’ve done so many weddings and have always told the bride and groom before, just listen to me, word of advice, I’ve done this 80 times, don’t wash your hair on Thursday, OK? Let it be.

Cologne  I like to smell good and I’ve got three on the go — Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male, Moschino Uomo, which is this weird one that’s discontinued and I have to buy off eBay, and there’s that new Paco Rabanne in the gold bar [1 Million]. Every time I wear that one, women ask what I’m wearing.

My stage clothes are very tailored: I could gain 10 pounds and wouldn’t fit into them any more. When you’re wearing a suit, it should fit you like a glove

Less is more  I love to sail and whenever I’m on the boat everyone makes fun of me because I always wear Speedos. I go pretty short, like Daniel Craig’s James Bond — by TYR, they’re like sports briefs.

Teenage dream  You wouldn’t recognize me in the yearbook photos. Parachute pants with the elastic band waist. The tragic ’90s. I was a child of Zellers.

Retro is a lifestyle  I sail, I drink scotch, I bowl. I’m so old-school I even have a custom bowling ball.

But Retro Tropicana is for walls, not closets No Cuban shirts, no Hawaiian shirts. They’re so loose-fitting and ugly. I’d rather be without a shirt than wear one.

HAROLD stops to chat with Jazz Crooner, Matt Dusk.

From: Harold Luxury For Men

Dear Matt,

HAROLD wants to know…

H: One luxury item you couldn’t live without?

MD: Whisky.  Spirits are a never ending exploration of taste.  You’re always learning and discovering new things about your palate and your ability to draw on familiar references.  I have been collecting whisky for the last 12 years, and have some pretty rare bottles.

H: Your signature fragrance?

MD: I’ve been wearing Versace Le Male for years… although some people would say its sooo 2002, I dont get as many compliments from any other fragrance.  I go with what works! Runner up is Paco Rabanne: One Million.

H: When you need to escape & clear your head, where do you go? 

MD: I literally sail away.  I’ve been sailing since I was a kid, and love it.  There is nothing more humbling than being on the water.  It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, if you screw around with nature, you’ll get bit it the ass.  I’m not one of those hard core guys that goes out for two weeks, but one who goes out for a few hours then returns to land, serving martinis once docked at dusk.

H: Strangest thing an interviewer ever said to you?

MD: ”You’ll always be my second best interview.”  Um… first, OK! Second, why would you say that?

H: What’s hanging on your walls?

MD: I’ve got a collection of paintings from local artists. I don’t have the means to afford a Picasso, but I do have the ability to frame it nicely and present it beautifully. If you can’t afford great art, afford great framing.  Everyone will think its worth a million bucks, and it is… to me!

H: Favorite drink?

MD:  Whisky straight up.  Single malt, blend, it doesn’t matter… as long as it doesn’t taste like paint thinner (not that I know what that tastes like).

H: Who’s your favorite designer?

MD: Pal Zileri.  I was first introduced to their clothes in my 20′s.  Now it’s all I wear.  Pal Zileri, being an European designer, is always ahead of the curve by years.  Also their quality is much higher than other brands in their price range.  Buy the suit, not the ad.

H: What’s the coolest place you’ve jet-setted to?

MD: We were recently in Costa Rica on a gig.  We flew private.  Thought that was cool until there was major turbulence… and I was reliving the scene from ALMOST FAMOUS.

H: Do you have a man-bag? What might we find inside?

MD: Man bag, yes! Wallet, camera, cell-phone with a wind-app that tells me if I can go sailing or not.

H: Who is your style icon?

MD: Hands down Cary Grant.

H: Best pair of jeans?

MD: Guess? Guess!  Jeans are utilitarian, their price should reflect that.

H: What’s sitting in your drive-way?

MD: The problem is I can’t get rid of a car once I’ve owned it, So I think the total value of all my cars is less than a new rim on Toyota Matrix.  I own a 2000 VW Golf super modified to 400 hp (I used to race at Mosport), my Bentley-light VW Phaeton, which I love… a GMC Envoy that carries my tools to and from my boat, and a Bricklin.  Do you know what that is?  It was the first designed and produced Canadian automobile, built in 1974.  Its got gull-wing doors that reach for the sky… almost.

H: Ultimate splurge item?

MD: Men’s watches.  When I travel to europe there’s nothing more exciting than looking at one million dollar Vacheron Constantin watches.  But my 1984 Timex is sooo coming back in fashion now.

H: Favorite place to go in your city?

MD: My backyard.  I mean, I travel all the time.  When I’m home, the last place I want to go is out.  Gimme a couch, a martini, and a swimming pool, and let the world melt away.

H: Favorite place to shop in the world?

MD: Florence, IT.  Where else can you get a lifetime supply of belts for $100?

 

Dont forget to check out Mr.Dusks latest album! My Funny Valentine: The Chet Baker Songbook 

www.mattdusk.com

Matt Dusk on the Strombo Show

In the red chair: Matt Dusk. The Canadian crooner is bringing back the songs of Chet Baker with his latest record. He talks to George about the great singers – and yep, drinking.

Plenty of people get famous for starring in reality shows. But Matt Dusk got famous for being in the background of one. Going back a bit, Matt was the in-house entertainer on Mark Burnett’s reality-drama ‘The Casino’. After years spent trying to make it in the bars and clubs of Toronto, The Casino gave Matt’s career a big-league boost. He scored a hit with his debut album ‘Two Shots’: a record that harkened back to the era of the Rat Pack and the giants from that era that inspired him. We’re talking about Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and the West-Coast jazz legend Chet Baker. Matt pays tribute to Chet on his new record ‘My Funny Valentine: The Chet Baker Songbook’.

Full Show:  http://www.cbc.ca/strombo/guest-page/matt-dusk.html

Matt Dusk: the classy crooner on learning to sing at St. Mike’s and his latest record release, “My Funny Valentine”

By Judith Muster

Matt Dusk may have been born in the wrong era. From his showbiz name to his tailored suits to his love of a good proverb, pretty much everything about him screams “rat pack” cool.

And yes, Dusk has the substance to match his style. The Toronto native spent the past decade establishing himself as a bona fide jazz crooner and is about to release his seventh album, just in time for Valentine’s Day. My Funny Valentine features renditions of some of Chet Baker’s most-beloved jazz standards, which Dusk has long admired.

Growing up in the 1980s and ’90s, more likely to hear Duran Duran and Nirvana than Chet Baker and Ol’ Blue Eyes, Dusk’s journey to jazz was somewhat circuitous. His place at the mic, however, was set from the start. As a child he loved music and performance and attended St. Michael’s Choir School.

“You are practising for an hour a day, and on Sunday you sing at the Catholic church across the street with the choir,” Dusk says of his days there. “So, I’ve really known nothing else beyond practising and performing.”

“It’s interesting, especially when you’re growing up, how habits just become … well, old habits die hard, and here I am.”

At home, Dusk’s mother was a fan of classical music, and her favourite radio station happened to play instrumental jazz. “Jazz was a good backdrop to doing my homework,” says Dusk. “Because there were no vocals, I wouldn’t concentrate on what was being sung.”

His love of jazz was sealed later in his teens when on a choir tour with school.

“My buddy gave me a tape of these crooners, and it was the first time I’d ever heard it,” remembers Dusk. “I thought it was kind of cheesy, so I started singing along, pretending I was a crooner, and my buddy was saying, ‘You know, you should try to take it seriously.’ ”

“Looking back, the opportunity I was given was very rare.”

Dusk took his friend just seriously enough to enrol in a high school talent competition where he and his karaoke tapes were extremely well-received by a welcoming audience. “It was at this all-girls high school, and they just went crazy, and I was like, ‘Perfect! This is my life.’ ”

Meanwhile, Dusk was actually headed for an entirely different kind of life. His father was self-employed and managed the family packaging company, and Dusk was being groomed as his predecessor.

“I went to work with my dad, since I was, like, six or seven, every day in the summer,” says Dusk. “And then, when I was in my teens, I was running the production side of it, and basically my destiny was for me to become the owner of this company.”

In keeping with his role as future packaging magnate, Dusk headed to York University for economics after graduating from St. Michael’s. Suffice to say, it was not for him. He found it difficult to connect his theoretical courses to the practical work of running the business and was so discouraged that he almost dropped out completely.

“I was actually going to leave and go work in the family business, but my mom said, ‘Don’t do it! You’ll never get this chance back again, and there’s lots  of time to grow up.’ ” Dusk heeded her advice and joined York’s music program instead. “God, I’m so glad,” he says. “I would have been a very wealthy person — and I would have probably been a very miserable person.”

Finally Dusk was where he was meant to be: studying jazz and pop music and meeting like-minded musicians with whom he could experiment and perform. He also began independently releasing records. He never abandoned his business skills, though, and near the end of his degree, he began to market himself in earnest.

“I started working in the nightclub scene when I was 21, in my third year of university, and by that time, I was doing about 18 to 22 gigs a month,” recalls Dusk. “You know you’re a salesman, and you’ve gotta send press kits, follow up, and eventually.…”

Dusk got signed to Universal Records while he was still in university. His independent record sales were just strong enough for Universal to take notice of him, though ultimately his record deal was a testament not only to his business tactics, but also to his jazz skills.

At the time, though, Dusk says, he wasn’t fully aware of how lucky he was.

“I literally went to my graduation, then got on a plane and went to England,” he explains. “But when you’re constantly getting better, you’re constantly getting more work, so it seemed like the natural progression. Looking back, the opportunity that I was given was very rare, but youth is very arrogant. They say youth is wasted on the young.”

Of course, Dusk is still only 34, but he’s accomplished a fair bit since signing the deal. He has recorded six studio albums, including his forthcoming release; one live album; and spent four years in Vegas as an in-house performer at a casino — a stint that was filmed for the reality television show The Casino.

And through it all, Dusk has been pushing the limits of his own repertoire. Though he’s clearly grounded in classic jazz vocals, he has mixed in some pop for good measure. In particular, for his gold album, Good News, one track was even remixed as a hit dance single.

“Part of my problem is my eccentricity,” explains Dusk. “But at the end of the day, I love performing for people, and I’m a pretty good judge of what the audience is looking for. If I think they’re leaning toward something more, I can change into that sort of repertoire.”

This flexibility has also meant that he feels comfortable doing a complete 180 and heading straight back to his musical roots, as on My Funny Valentine.

Dusk explains he first heard Chet Baker back on that same radio station favoured by his mother. He remembers on one of his regular trips to Sam the Record Man finding a Baker cassette in the discount bin.

Since that fateful day he discovered the old crooners, Dusk has had a special place in his heart for Baker, whose singing style is fundamentally different from his own.

“He has a very tender way of singing, and the way that I was taught to sing was very lyrical and aggressive,” Dusk says. “When I started listening to him, he basically gave me a whole other side to learn. You know everybody learns from inspiration, and my journey has been 16 years of rediscovering his music and also learning from it.”

Wherever his journey takes him next, Dusk will surely be following his inspirations and inspiring his audience as he goes.

Fizzy Pop!! Single Selection: My Funny Valentine / Time After Time

If you are not aware of the dulcet tones of Matt Dusk then you are a ninny and a fool to yourself 😀 It’s probably not the best way to entice you to try out an artist you may be unaware of, but sometimes I feel it is best to be upfront about these things 😛 Anyhoo, as many of you probably do know, Matt Dusk is the fine purveyor of a mix of self penned jazz-tinged, big band numbers and delightful classics. His Live from Las Vegas CD/DVD is a real treat that showcases what a consumate, witty performer he is, injecting his own style into the standards and demonstrating how effortlessly his own compositions hold up against such impossibly high quality (Indeed, his own compositions often work incredibly well alongside massive pop hits – I did a lovely piano medley of Wouldn’t Change A Thing with Bruno Mars’ Marry You for my parents 50th anniversary).

So news that Matt has a new album out early this year (The Chet Baker Songbook) filled me with joy. He’s previewing this set with an altogether elegant and studied version of My Funny Valentine. Set to a sweeping and enchanting strings-led instrumental over that enticing c-minor tonic, when Matt’s voice comes in at 40 seconds it’s instantly engaging and seductive. Indeed, he’s not so much a gatekeeper of other people’s songs (though he’s always reverent and respectful of the original material) rather a master interpreter, finding nuance & new meaning in the words and music of others. He’s playful with the more teasing lyrics, but ultimately the romance & desire of the song shine through with his resonant tones uncovering hidden layers of the tune. It’s quite the accomplishment to do this with such a universally well known (& oft-covered) musical gem. But that’s Matt Dusk for you – dapper chappy, gorgeous expressive voice and ability to make something familiar sound entirely new. The album can’t come quick enough – I suspect the Chet Baker songs are in safe hands 🙂

UPDATE: Well bless my barnacles, Matt sure is busy in the run up to the album release. He’s only just bestowed us with My Funny Valentine yet hot on it’s heels is a truly sensational version of Time After Time (both featuring ace trumpeter Arturo Sandoval). Of course you will know the rather lovely and touching version that featured in the classic film It Happened In Brooklyn (and if not, why not?! Rectify that instantly. I’ll wait!) The elegiac strings sweetly underscoring that sumptuous trumpet conjour up images of a smoky bar, Mad Men style, while Matt gently croons his declaration of love and dedication. His voice is imbued with a charming, sincere quality that’s hard to resist – part of that seems to be reflecting his joy in singing the tune as well as channelling the lyrics (as discussed above). I love how as the pace picks up after that dreamy middle 8, so does the glee in Matt’s voice as it turns into a celebration of a relationship that continues to endure. Utterly delightful. PS, Matt still looks quite dapper in the still on the video. I bet he can make any outfit look dashing… the git 😀