Thursday, February 11, 2016

music for a poem


First minute (light, wood, time isn’t real, slow, ocean)

Second minute (woman, run, currents, everything, light, (crash), build intensity, no time, simmer down)

Third minute (guitars, glazed, touched, finger tips, light, energy! Build, stirs, simmer down, tiny car crashes)

Fourth minute (colliding all along, light, speed up, light, corruption, crooked muses, seeping motion, sadness, not together, slap, downbeat, sighing, light)

Fifth minute (finger tip around rim, anchor, lighten up, simmer down, with pauses, sharp, lighthouses, bright, alone, distant, storm or sun, return to the ground)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

cassette tape notes




(five minutes)

Styrofoam, rising and falling, police drones, light knocking, radios?, clicking, continuous texture, getting slightly denser, RYAN FOURT, ELWOOD, NATHAN, MYSELF QUARTET. TAPE SWITCH, BANJO, BOWED BASS, OUT OF TUNE GUITAR, MTM/ELWOOD, CHAOTIC NOISE, suddenly comes down, plucked string texture.  ADDED ELECTRONICS, BOWED NOISES, VERY RHYTHMIC PULSE, HIGH FREQ PASSES, BOWED HARMONICS,

 (ten minute)
 quick bursts and waves of sounds, cymbals and metal junk noises, radio, electronic cymbal splashes, radio static, waves of white noises, scraping, building, banjo groove, synth melody, chunking guitar, music boxes and winding,

(15 minutes)

cymbals, faded down.  We stop playing and are talking with Elwood, Me, Nathan, Ryan?  I’m talking about lucier, elwood says that’s too bad.  SOME GUITAR COMING IN AND OUT WITH CONVERSATIONS.  EDIT THIS OUT !


AMANDA AND SAM SHOW UP, talking about booze, lots of conversations.  I’m talking about a birthday party.  Some light talking with accordion and vibes playing.  I’m demonstrating some new keyboard, or device.  Sam is playing drums and talking about Alwyn.   Matt Smiley Family Band.  Classical saxophonists, electronics, octopus

(25 minutes)

silences, banjo, drums, electronics, sparse elec bass.  Chaotic, noisy, off kilter.  Tingshas.  Cymbals.  Tape distortion!  SAWED!  The chaos insues but simmers.  Sparse snare and cymbals, the beat is expanding and getting wider, woodblock generates energy into a faster sphere. 



Finger tapping guitar, some talking in the background, other background point guitar, sneeze, talking has stopped, some talking still in the background, unable to make out the voices and what they are saying, but are very audible.  I think the tape works so far as is.  Sounds like several guitars.  I think there are people in the kitchen talking, while music is being playing in the living room.  It sounds great, twangy guitar, END OF WEIRD WEDNESDAY SET WITH NATHAN

44:00 CUT


Session with elwood, Nathan, sam, smiley, Amanda, ryan, distorted and bizarre bluegrass death match.  Vibes, out trumpet, snare drum beat, sounds almost ornette ish with banjo up beats and a grooving snare drum pattern.  Everything unwinds and falls apart.  Rumbling bass with demented ives-ian tonality, all playing melodies in various in and out of tunings and key centers, with speeding and slowing down.  The mud is coming to a halt and pulsating.  Banjo melody underlies and brings out the different melodies once again.  Long repetitive forms with each instrument playing into the machine of the piece.  Rhythmically churning into it…


Elwood sextet session again.  Features lots of vocals of elwood and smiley reciting james joyce.  It was very loud for awhile, then did a tape switch into some solo playing with drones and other tapes, back to elwood session, back to solo session


Jory talking, saxophone, electronics, radio, rehearsal for Sapporo

Part two

Rehearsal take of sapporo

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Top album picks of 2015!


I have let the blog go by the wayside a bit, seems like social media and the internet are moving in different directions, or maybe that's my own interests.  Anyways coming back to it in order to support some of my favorite artists who came out with records last year.  This is in no particular order, just ten great albums of 2015.

John Hollenbeck - Songs We Like

I always enjoy hearing Hollenbeck’s newest project, always has a way of sounding like himself while continuously moving into different directions, utilizing different ideas, and arranging other people’s music in new and exciting ways!  Another part of his music that I love is hearing the same piece arranged for small combo vs. large ensemble and what makes them different.  There’s nothing like getting to hear/see the process of a piece unfold, be it visual art or a musical composition.

Tim Berne - You've been watching me/Spare (with limited edition photos/drawings)

I was fortunate enough to hear the snake oil band when they came to Colorado with Dan Weiss instead of Ches Smith on drums in the last few years.  Comparisons are clichéd but I’m going to use one anyway (powering through it).  I think of this group as the “Miles Davis Second Quintet” of now.  There is a tried and true bandleader that leads with such a strong and creative force, known for his specific bands (Bloodcount, Hard Cell, Paraphrase Trio). This group has really been breaking into new ground with every new release, especially with the addition of Ryan Ferreira on guitar/electronics.  I can’t wait for the next release!

Matt Mitchell - Vista Accumulation

By extension a few years ago I downloaded some of Matt Mitchell’s bandcamp releases that are more in the free improv/noise/lowercase realm, and realized after listening to it why my ear has such a connection to his music.  I feel like a lot of jazz improvisers miss out on the sonic tradition of 20th century classical music, AMM, MEV, early electronic music experiments, etc... and when that’s part of the influence I’m immediately drawn in.  This new record is out of this world, and there’s few players that can make music at this level.  There's beautiful compositions, and an incredible band sound!  As a bass player I’m starting to see Chris Tordini playing with some of my favorite NYC musicians, can’t wait to hear more of this!

Ben Monder – Amorphae

I always find out about Monder’s releases well after the fact, but this is a diverse mix of through composed Monder, featuring some trios, duets and solos with Andrew Cyrille and Paul Motian!  Every Monder album is unique, and with the “ECM” sound clearly imprinted in the mix/mastering I love it.  I don’t know what ECM has been doing recently, but all my favorite artists are starting to release through them, keep it up Manfred Eicher!

Darius Jones - le bebe de bergitte (lost in translation)

Darius Jones is the organic soul of the music to my ear.  Every album/project/band I’ve heard recordings of digs deeper and deeper into something that I can’t put my finger on.  Darius was kind enough recently to tell me about his approach, and has only opened up my ears more and filled me with more questions after this latest release.  As I read Coleman Barks’ Rumi for soul nourishment, so do I feel when I listen to any record of his, and the newest one is no exception.  Meredith Monk is one of my favorite composers, and I don’t know if she’s an influence or not, but I hear a certain theatrical/compositional sound in this album that reminds me of her.  If they ever did work together it would me a beautiful melding of two creative spirits. 

John Zorn - Olympiad vol. 1 Dither Quartet/The Song Project

John Zorn keeps releasing project after project: filmworks, Masada, game pieces, 21st classical releases, solo organ improvisations and more.  The dither guitar quartet released a series of early game pieces, and supposedly start off a series of new recordings of older works, other than a few recent John Zorn guitar etudes/book of heads releases.  The dither quartet perfectly pays homage to the great free players of Derek Bailey and Eugene Chadbourne.  They capture the spirit of the game so well, and I'm glad there’s videos of this group online.   The Song Project is a collection of Zorn's music with lyrics written for the older pieces, recorded with different ensembles and vocalists, and released as multi-colored single 45s in a blue/green suede case.  The art/package of this is only matched by the Tim Berne “Spare” release with 100s of sketches and photos.  I’m happy to see art really coming back to album releases, seems an appropriate response to the streaming world we live in.

Terrell Stafford - Brotherlee - The Music of Lee Morgan

Swinging new release, these are some the best ones alive playing the standards.  You want to feel good, you want to dance, you want to be happy, and this will do it!  Terrell is one of the sweetest players in the business, on trumpet and as a person.  These guys play great arrangements of Lee’s book of tunes, and there’s not a lot of tributes to undersung trumpet players like Lee Morgan.  Buy the music, support the artist, it’s all money well spent! 

Kris Davis - Save Your Breath

This is the bass album of the year, four bass clarinets plus rhythm section with Jim Black on the drums!  At first glance it's like a modern day Henry Threadgill X-75 (4 basses, 4 sax/flutes/voice).  The writing for this low of frequencies is beautiful, haunting and exotic, not many composers’ could utilize this orchestration in such a creative and musical way.  Then it was first released it was on repeat every day for a long time.  I always like her projects, everyone of them sounds fresh to my ears with lots of varied musicians/instrumentation. Like so many great composers, she seemingly is always diving headfirst into new directions.

David Torn - Only Sky

If you haven’t heard David Torn you’re missing out! He came to Denver to do a free improv show with Tim Berne and Ches Smith a few years back (HQ video on youtube), playing one of my top 5 shows I’ve ever seen in my life.  I had no idea who he was until the show, and left a believer.  I’ve always loved the collaborations between him and Tim Berne over the years, and still feel like I’m barely scratching the surface with the musical giant that is David Torn.  Check out his sound world, you won’t want to leave!

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly

This year I became more politically involved, and have been trying to be more active in giving back and doing my part.  Simultaneously a friend recommended this record to me as the “free jazz” influenced record.  Now I wouldn’t describe it as that, but I hear it more as jazz influenced creative hip hop record that goes a lot of places.  Kendrick has a special flow to his sound, and I had to check out more of his stuff with other rappers and other projects to fully appreciate this.  He’s helping shine lights on what’s going on in the world today, and has a positive message to bring if you’ll listen.  

Ryan Adams  - 1989

This is my guilty pleasure album of the year, and by extension Taylor Swift.  I’ve been AB-ing the two 1989 records and found myself singing them to myself when I’m not realizing it.  I’ve always been a Ryan Adams’ fan, and I really like the idea of covering a huge project of someone else’s work and making it your own.  I like the idea of literal influence/transference, to also show the individuality in a person’s sound and approach.  Ryan Adams’ 1989 is exactly what I hoped it would be, now it’s time for Taylor Swift to cover one of his tunes!

Wilco - Star Wars 

This came as a free download, and now looking at the album length must have been a made for vinyl release.  I will eat up anything Wilco, they are my modern day Beatles, nothing better in the realm of rock and roll for me.  This is a  continuation of the newer Nels Cline era Wilco, high energy start to finish, keep em coming boys!  I did get the Tweedy release, and honestly enjoyed a live bootleg I heard much more than the studio release.  It didn’t seem like they finished the album, as if they gave up ¾ of the way through tracking.  Tweedy sounds great live, it’s just not worth it for me to buy the vinyl copy is all.

Matt Smiley – 30 Bananas (demo)

Last February some of my friends took part in a 30 day songwriting challenge, and I multi-track recorded a demo of 30 songs.  I hadn’t written rock music since high school, so it was a fun challenge to try to write that much music, and figure out a fast way to do it.  I used 4-5 books to generate lyrics (taking out phrases, re-wording them, mixing them around with my own words/phrases), mostly nonsense/surreal, and improvised tracks.  Musically I was thinking about this Joan Miro process, improvising the parts until it starts to form a shape, and then methodically planning it from there on out.  The tracks are rough in spots, but eventually would like to re-record part of it and officially release it.

Over the last few years I have been getting more and more burnt out on the modern jazz/new music coming out of NYC.  There’s a few releases I have heard that I won’t list that I wasn't as into, sometimes with some of my favorite players.  Not every record has to be 5 stars, and it’s better to try out new projects than to not.  As I get older I think it’s ok to enjoy whatever music you enjoy, and if it doesn’t hit you in that special way, then it doesn’t!  My favorite jazz now doesn’t always sound like “jazz,” and won’t get mainstream radio play (although I don’t see why not).  My favorite rock doesn’t always sound like “rock,” and by extension lots of the other “post-modern” music out there today.  Anyways it’s an exciting time to be alive, and there’s so much out there to hear and check out.



Friday, June 19, 2015

What Bass Players Practice

Hi All,
I forgot about this blog for a minute, sorry I haven't posted in almost a year.  I have been re-organizing, and have a list of half a dozen or so planned blog entries to start going through about various projects, pieces of music, etc...  HERE is my bandcamp link, if you haven't checked it out in awhile, there's a lot of new recordings up, from Cornelius Cardew, to Don Cherry, to a recent Ornette Coleman tribute show.

For this post I emailed some bass player friends and simply asked them what they practiced, as I feel like I've been in a rut, playing the same old things.  Here's the responses I got below, use as a resource, lots of great ideas here!  The main take away I got out of it was that I really need to work on pizz string crossing exercises, seems like everyone does it, and it never occurred to me (except back in my high school electric bass shred days).  Enjoy!


I do a lot of work with the bow, practicing scales and arpeggios. I like to run scales in odd time signatures, making my own patterns with the intervals. It's fun and more applicable to jazz playing while still working on intonation and mechanics.


The Flesch Scale book is intreresting. Rabbath books. Storch-Hrabe 57 Studies. Stokin' bow exercise books.

Then to get my left and right hand to work together more fluidly I've been working on an exercise where the metronome is set between 70 and 90 while I articulate 16 note triplets with the bow and run up and down a scale changing on different subdivisions, for example - (/ marking a blow stroke) F// G// A// etc. then F/G/A/, then F/// G/// A///. That one tends to wake up my hands and get my brain working.

Loosening up the bow hand/arm - Left hand over the harmonics two octaves above the open strings, simply with your arm hanging in thumb position and playing G, D and A with an OPEN E. Metronome anywhere between 40-120, changing subdivisions, notes slurred, etc. but essentially playing E-A-D-G (Bow change) G-D-A-E and focusing on getting everything smooth in the right hand. You cover string crossings, time, bow placement, and more stuff I cant think of because I'm a buffoon.

My jazz stuff is always changing... Currently it's transcriptions (playing along with records), time (playing along with records) and just playing (along with records, and then not, Free, in time with or with out metronome on a weird setting, blah blah blah). "Variations on a theme about playing along with records"


Lately I've been doing a lot of daily review of heads and transcriptions, then learning new tunes or refreshing old ones, playing the melody, bass line, soloing, usually with some sort of DIY playalong or Aebersold. Targeting different pitches, soloing with arpeggios, alternating melody and bass line, playing in different keys, etc.

I also like to do some sort of technique/intonation work. Start with long tones arco, ff dotted quarters on open strings, quarter=60, then playing scales slowly with some sort of pitch reference, (drone, playalong), not correcting the pitch if its off but rather doing it again and playing in tune (a Rabbath idea). Sometimes will do the same with arpeggios. Might also work on some classical rep or do Zimmerman or Rabbath exercises (esp. if I have to play some classical soon).

Will also just play through tunes, usually with another cat or two. And work on new transcriptions (I use the transcribe! software). Also I sometimes like to do this Ari Hoenig exercise where you take the first thing you play and try to develop it into a 2-3 minute composition. Oh yeah and learning tunes in different keys on the piano.
I don't do this stuff everyday, I usually just rotate it in a non-systematic way.  


Scales - arco with a drone & pizz
RH pizz w/met - different finger combinations, string crossings
Tunes - changes/melodies
Transcriptions - working up new or reviewing old
Licks - II-V's, etc.
Classical rep - working on new rep
Up tempo - a few minutes of playing an up tempo tune (300+)
Listening - just a few minutes of focused listening


I'm almost always just trying to prepare for the next thing I've got to do.
But when I DO have time, the things that have always had the most impact on my development are:
-scales over the whole register of the bass with the bow. I really like 2 strokes per note with the second stroke overlapping onto the next note to highlight my shifting.
-jim vaughn's handframe exercise. 
-my own variations on the simandl strength exercise. 
-whatever I feel like playing (tunes/free/bach)
-odd numbered groupings of two finger alternating pizz with all sorts of string crossings.
-brainsplitting (singing and playing different subdivisions against one another)
-shifting exercizes with a drone
-standing with both heels down (and other Alexander technique stuff)
-translating everything from the lower positions into thumb position
-tune learning/listening!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Peaceful Contact Proved Elusive (album release!)

Hello to all my friends, family and fans!

I just released a duo album, on the Dazzle recording label, with guitarist Alex Nauman. The album, "Peaceful Contact Proved Elusive," contains all original compositions and arrangements by Alex and myself. It is available on limited edition vinyl or as a digital download through iTunes, Amazon and Bandcamp, see links below. To purchase your copy of the vinyl email either myself or Alex at or The album comes with a free digital download that includes additional material'.  There is a description of the music below. 

Thanks for your continued support!

-Matt Smiley

About the music:

1.     Hic Hip – composition by Matt Smiley, May 7th 2012, dedicated to Christian Wolff, made possible by Greg Heimbecker, who brought Chinese gongs and a very large frame drum to the recording session.  The score is a single melodic line with chord changes, dots, thick black lines and long tones, while the second line is rhythmic, with a few graphic explosions.  Matt Smiley plays gongs and bass, while Alex Nauman plays guitar and frame drum.   
2.     Bends – composition by Alex Nauman, July 9th 2011, dedicated to Derek Bailey.  First performed as a solo at Pat’s Place in Billings, MT.  There are two versions of the piece on the album, clean and distorted.  The notation calls for all possible ways and combinations to bend pitch(es).
3.     Gradual Coalescence – composition by Matt Smiley, May 7th 2013, dedicated to Ken Vandermark, originally titled SQHN and composed for a trio with an additional trumpet part.  The piece is made up of 12 cells that the musicians improvise the connection between, and each cell can be played in any order.  On the album the cells are played forwards and backwards in the same ordering on both instruments.
4.     Rotting Watermelons – composition by Alex Nauman, 2013, dedicated to Frank Zappa.  The composition is inspired by two Frank Zappa songs Black Napkins and Watermelons in Easter Hay.  
5.     Take the Bandaid off – composition by Alex Nauman, 2013.  Early in the recording session Alex cut one of his fingers, and had to bandage it up, hence the title.  This is the ballad of the album and one of the only pieces that employs [semi] traditional harmonies.  
6.     Lorraine is a Good Name for a Bat – composition by Matt Smiley, December 17th 2012, dedicated to William Burroughs.  Five very different sections of music that can be played in any ordering with improvisation in between each section.  The title comes from a line from Jack Kerouac’s "On the Road." 
7.     Sketches for Ornette – composition/arrangement by Matt Smiley, August 1st 2013. This is a duo version of Ornette Coleman’s "Free Jazz," and is based on a transcription/arrangement of the piece for double quartet that I performed in 2010.  Includes the same amount of solo sections, including the bass duet, and the two drum solos.  
8.     Ice Trains – chance composition by Matt Smiley, September 8th 2013, dedicated to John Zorn.  Each performer has 7 pages of any notated music, and the modular score involves specific interpretations of the combination of random notated music.  The 7 pages should be different if possible, but any arrangement could be made: 7 pages of a Beethoven string quartet, or one page of Charlie Parker, Brahms, John Cage, REM, Bulgarian music, Moondog, and a church hymn, or 3 pages of AC/DC and 4 pages of Chopin.  Each of the four versions of Ice Trains uses different orderings of the score, and different notated scores.  

Monday, July 7, 2014

Bookmarks for days

I haven't been updating the blog much these days, realizing it's impossible to keep up with social media.  I'm now actively using (with the help of my new iPhone) facebook, twitter, instagram, this blog, bandcamp, cdbaby, reddit, talkbass, youtube, soundcloud, and probably more that I'm forgetting about right now, to try and promote my music and get my ideas out there.  I'm torn between keeping up this charade of diving into the internet feet first in helping hustle for gigs, for work, and for simply wanting to archive my music as best as I can.  It's too much to keep track of, and too many hours in the day lost to this rat race!  Whew, it's enough to make you want to live off the grid!

Recently in the last 6-8 months my computer bookmarks are piling up with things to check out down the road, so I'll try and go ahead and list off them here, so I can come back to them, and who knows, you the reader may find these interesting as well!

Jack Wright Essays  Saxophonist Jack Wright Essays on music, art, life, and more!

Codex Seraphinianus  Wiki article on this amazing coded piece, so far undeciphered.

Cheap Eye Glasses  This is a great company that sells cheap frames/lens, need some new specs.

Tim Berne, David Torn and Ches Smith Video  This is a show from the Walnut Room in Denver I was at, one of the best I've seen in years, and the audio/video is very high quality.

Christian Wolff Lecture I haven't watched this yet, but the only other lecture I found by Wolff is in German, so I'm glad this one is in English.

Matt Smiley July Update

Hello all!
Welcome again to the email list for bassist/composer Matt Smiley!  Listed below are all of my gigs for the month of July, including multiple performances at Ace Gillett’s, John Galt Coffee in Greeley and at the Garden’s at Spring Creek.

The special events to be on the lookout for are my performance of Treatise in Greeley on Thursday July 10th at the John Galt Coffee Shop at 7:30pm.  I have an 11 piece ensemble premièring an original composition of mine that I wrote 5 years ago.  There will be a projection of the score playing in real time with the music, as well as free food and drink! 

Also I will be performing as part of the Garden’s at the Spring Creek Concert series with the great Kelsey Shiba performing all music by Cole Porter, Sunday evening July 20th from 6:30pm-8:30pm.  For more information check out their website:
Thanks for listening and for your support!
Matt Smiley


Sunday July 6th – Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 7pm-11pm – Amanda Riggers on vocals/piano and Matt Smiley on bass

Wednesday July 9th – Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 7pm-11pm – Amanda Riggers on vocals/piano and Matt Smiley on bass

Thursday July 10th – TREATISE in Greeley at John Galt Coffee (709 16th st) at 7:30pm - Matt Smiley (bass, electronics), Nathan Ahlers (guitar, electronics), Kristen Dye (flute), Aimee Niemann (violin), Michael Schreier (keyboard), Tom Amend (keyboard),
Shilo Stroman (vibes/percussion),
Mike Gersten (clarinet),
Rob Borger (trombone), Jenna Hunt (harp) and Kenyon Brenner (sax/ewi)

Friday July 11th  – Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 8pm-midnight – Subterranean Jazz Quartet featuring Annie Booth on piano, John Olson on drums, Josh Reed on trumpet and Matt Smiley on bass

Saturday July 12th  - Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 8pm-midnight – Subterranean Jazz Quartet featuring Ben Markley on piano, John Olson on drums, Josh Quinlan on saxophone and Matt Smiley on bass

Sunday July 13th – Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 7pm-11pm – Annie Booth on piano and Matt Smiley on bass

Wednesday July 16th – Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 7pm-11pm – Kelsey Shiba on vocals/piano and Matt Smiley on bass

Thursday July 17th  - Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 8pm-midnight – Subterranean Jazz Quartet featuring Ben Markley on piano, John Olson on drums, Andrew Vogt on saxophones and Matt Smiley on bass

Friday July 18th  – Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 8pm-midnight – Subterranean Jazz Quartet featuring Annie Booth on piano, John Olson on drums, Ryan Fourt on guitar and Matt Smiley on bass

Saturday July 19th – Performing at a private wedding

Sunday July 20th – Gardens at the Spring Creek in Fort Collins 6pm-8pm – Matt Smiley Quintet plays the music of Cole Porter – Kelsey Shiba on keyboards and vocals, Josh Reed on trumpet, Ryan Fourt on guitar, Shilo Stroman on drums, and Matt Smiley on bass

Wednesday July 23rd  – Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 7pm-11pm – Kelsey Shiba on vocals/piano and Matt Smiley on bass

Thursday July 24th   - Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 8pm-midnight – Subterranean Jazz Quartet featuring Ben Markley on piano, John Olson on drums, Andrew Vogt on saxophones and Matt Smiley on bass

Friday July 25th   – Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 8pm-midnight – Subterranean Jazz Quartet featuring Annie Booth on piano, John Olson on drums, Alex Weitz on saxophone and Matt Smiley on bass

Saturday July 26th  - Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 8pm-midnight – Subterranean Jazz Quartet featuring Ben Markley on piano, John Olson on drums, Wil Swindler on saxophone and Matt Smiley on bass

Sunday July 27th  – Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 7pm-11pm – Amanda Riggers on vocals/piano and Matt Smiley on bass

Wednesday July 30th   – Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 7pm-11pm – Kelsey Shiba on vocals/piano and Matt Smiley on bass

Thursday July 31st    - Ace Gillett’s in Fort Collins 8pm-midnight – Subterranean Jazz Quartet featuring Ben Markley on piano, John Olson on drums, Andrew Vogt on saxophones and Matt Smiley on bass