by Val Vaccaro
On Monday, January 19, 2009, America celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (actual date of birth - January 15, 1929) the late, great civil rights activist (who was also a Baptist minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner). It is fitting that it was also the day before the world watched the momentous inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America on January 20, 2009 of Barack Obama (former Senator from Illinois), now the first African-American President in U.S. history, who is also a baby-boomer.
Speaking of baby-boomers, most smooth jazz fans - who are a microcosm of racial diversity - are also part of this age group (born between 1946 and 1964). Like many smooth jazz fans and artists, guitarist Matt Marshak holds the values of baby boomers who grew up sharing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of the world as a better place, promoting equality among races and peaceful resistance to discrimination.
According to Matt Marshak, “In my opinion, jazz, smooth jazz, embodies so much of the essence of what Dr. King envisioned. Folks of all backgrounds join together on stage and in the audience to enjoy a truly American art form. The power is in the diversity, friendship, and belief (that) we as a community are a fine example of this unity.”
The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is represented in part by his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which he gave on August 28, 1963 in Washington D.C. at the Lincoln Memorial. Dr. King’s speech was a defining moment in the civil rights movement in the U.S., and as part of the promise of being able to fulfill the American Dream. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was given as part of the1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” to over a quarter of a million people. Dr. King’s dream was for people to “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
In 1999, the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. was honored by being named to the top of the list of the “100 best political speeches of the 20th century” (http://www.news.wisc.edu/releases/3504.html).
It is fitting then, that someone from the smooth jazz community would have the idea to combine the joy of gospel-influenced, smooth jazz/instrumental pop music with the great message of the civil rights movement. That’s what songwriter, producer and guitarist Matt Marshak does in his newly remixed single “Brotherhood – featuring Martin Luther King Jr.” This new single, released officially January 5, 2009 on www.mattmarshak.com, features guitarist Matt Marshak’s upbeat, smooth jazz/instrumental pop song, mixed with the original soundtrack of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “I Have a Dream.”
Matt Marshak says “Since I was child, I’ve always been inspired and deeply touched by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His words and message…ring with a timeless importance to me. His incredible bravery, belief in non-violence, and brilliantly executed speeches will forever influence me as a human being and a musician…. The whole idea of this song was to pay tribute to a great American who I admire like no other, and to help spread and continue his message and legacy.”
Here’s how it happened. According to Marshak, “About a year ago, I recorded a jazz/gospel/R&B tune called "Brotherhood.” It was a dream and mission of mine to somehow pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I envisioned somehow being able to use parts of the "I Have a Dream Speech" in this song called "Brotherhood." This is where my journey began.
Marshak says it took about twelve months to get the rights to Dr. King’s audio clips – he originally contacted the King estate last year, hoping to release the single in January 2008. Being persistent finally worked, and he received permission in December 2008. Marshak says “They thankfully loved the song, approved it, and granted me full permission and license to release this song nationally to every jazz, gospel, and urban a/c station (R&B). Yes, it also cost a fair amount to get the license, but to me it was the best money I ever spent.”
In his January 18, 2009 online newsletter, Marshak wrote that the “Brotherhood-featuring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” song is available for download for 99 cents. 100% of the proceeds of this song will be donated to the Martin Luther King Jr. Estate.” The song’s download link is: http://web.me.com/nuancemusicgroup/Brotherhood/Brotherhood.html
Also, Marshak says that he made Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. co-writer of this song “to help raise money for the King Estate… It will (also) put Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the charts as an artist.”
The original instrumental version of the “Brotherhood” song by smooth jazz guitarist Matt Marshak (without Dr. King’s speech) is featured on Marshak’s current CD (his 4th CD released in 2008) called On the Rocks. The artists on the song include the song’s writer and producer Matt Marshak on guitar (and drum programming), New York gospel music greats Willard Meeks and Robert Meeks on keyboards, and Jack Knight on bass.
Marshak’s CD On the Rocks is available at Amazon.com and at CDbaby.com. A review by Brian Soergel for Jazz Times magazine called On the Rocks “One of the year’s best guitar smooth-jazz CDs.”
Recently, the title track song “On the Rocks” was on both of the Top 30 charts for smooth jazz in Radio & Records, and in U.S.A. Today for smooth adult contemporary music, alongside smooth jazz and pop music artists such as Dave Koz, Jeff Lorber, Fourplay, Warren Hill, Brian Culbertson, Seal, Beyoncé and John Legend.
Also, as a talented producer and songwriter, Matt Marshak was recognized when the CD he produced, Friday Afternoon with trumpeter David Wells, was selected as a nomination entry for Best Pop Instrumental Album for the 2009 Grammy Awards.
In Matt Marshak’s December 18, 2008 online newsletter, he wrote: “I want to congratulate our soon-to-be President Barack Obama. I was so impressed by the future President's statement that jazz and classical music will have a central part in the White House. Bands/performers of both genres will be regularly invited to perform. To me this is inspiring, as art and culture are such a(n) (important) part of this country, and it's heartwarming to hear that our new leader will create more gigs for us! Thank you President Obama!”
The new “Brotherhood - featuring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” single, as mentioned before, is available for download - see the link via www.mattmarshak.com or go directly to: http://web.me.com/nuancemusicgroup/Brotherhood/Brotherhood.html
Also, Marshak is hoping to get fans to request airplay of the single “Brotherhood – featuring Martin Luther King Jr.” on jazz, gospel, and R&B station starting in January 2009. Music fans who enjoy smooth jazz, R&B, and gospel, and those who share Dr. King’s vision will appreciate the new single “Brotherhood – featuring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” Matt Marshak’s new single is positively inspirational and filled with (as one of the book titles by President Barack Obama says) the audacity of hope!
Let’s hope 2009 is a year of peace, progress, and happiness for everyone, including the smooth jazz community and its artists, who help bring joy and celebration to the world. [Note: In 2009, guitarist Matt Marshak will be performing shows in the U.S. in places such as California, New York, Iowa, Florida, and Pennsylvania (at the Berks Jazz Fest Jam). For more information on Matt Marshak, including specific tour dates and venue information – please visit www.mattmarshak.com.]