Matt Bianco, in partnership with Universal Music, rejuvenated the mystical harmonies that once adorned the 80’s and brought forth "Matt’s Mood," a unique and visionary effort brought forth by Mark Reilly, Danny White, and the seductive tones of Basia Trzetrzelewska - all whom wrote and produced this entire project the way it should have been.
Without skipping a beat, Matt Bianco continued where they ended, only leaving most of the past behind and successfully igniting the rebirth. The melodies and tempos throughout the piece are so acutely arranged, it adds a new dimension to their signature sound. Assisted through the digital age, the recordings are so crisp and project the smooth harmony fans are so used too. Jazz will embrace this with a new fascination towards the 2004 Matt Bianco.
In London, Mark Reilly took five and I decided to pilfer that time from him to go between sets as he prepares to plan out Matt Bianco’s next steps. Direct and with humor, he went backwards and forwards in time. It was an experience all should try just once with Mark.
JazzReview: Music like life goes through numerous changes. Matt Bianco then, Matt Bianco now. How has the group evolved?
Mark Reilly: We are pretty much the same. We like the jazz, Latin and R&B influences, which is really what our music is a combination of all those three. Unlike our individual place, which is added to that, it’s funny how music goes full circle and into different trends. Some music feels right at the time. Certainly getting back together after all that time, it felt right. We wanted to make a contemporary album and the time was right for us to get back together. We thought we could put a contemporary album in today’s market, even though the music was really much the same as when we first started.
JazzReview: In 1984 your debut cut "Get Out of Your Lazy Bed" hit the Top-20 Charts at number15. Does that style of music have that promise of impact 20 years later? Do you look at it as a rebirth of sorts?
Mark Reilly: Well it’s kind of more an adult thing! The Matt Bianco of 1984 was very much marketed in a pop world. It was the beginning of the video age and we kind of marketed that way. Now it’s 20 years later and although the music to me has not changed a great deal, we are now taking music more on an adult level. I think the music we do now is the same ,but more mature. It suits our age group and us. We feel comfortable with it.
JazzReview: Matt Bianco is without question labeled as a pop culture group. However, you seem to have such a major impact on the jazz populace. What caused this to occur and was it in some way intentional on your part?
Mark Reilly: We got criticism from mainstream jazz people because it isn’t like straight ahead jazz; jazz was an influence for us, but we were not trying to make mainstream jazz music. Mixing jazz and the retro feel to the music interested a lot of people. I think we created an interesting fusion with our music this time around, which interested not just the older people, but the younger generation, as well.
JazzReview: So Matt Bianco is back and on tour. How will the group deal with the debut of being on stage together for the first time?
Mark Reilly: We never got around to playing live back then so we are excited. Rehearsals have gone really well.
JazzReview: Were there any reservations at first as to reuniting the magic again?
Mark Reilly: There was in as much as we decided to get together, and if we felt the music was good and well carried out. So far, things have gone rather easily. There are no egos or competition among us; everyone seems to bring something to the table, which helps in complimenting each other.
JazzReview: Were there any unexpected emotions or barriers to negotiate with?
Mark Reilly: No, not really. Enough time had passed; people’s agendas are different. We all needed to be sympathetic to everyone’s issues, and again, it seems to have gone smoothly.
JazzReview: "Matt’s Mood 2004" is a classic rejuvenation of a spirit. Matt Bianco and its innovative touch kept the 1980’s promise of great music thriving through the decade. How was this album arranged and designed?
Mark Reilly: Yes it is. We had to find a way of working because I’ve got a studio in London and have been using a computer-based system. So I showed Danny how that works and he got a similar setup. Basia got the same because she lives about 30 miles outside of London. What we would do was to work together and send files to one another, and Basia would do the vocals by herself so we really just interchanged files.
Musically, we had to look at the first album we made together and liked much of that album. It may have sounded a bit naïve but there was some great music on it. One of the starting points was Ronnie Ross; we discovered we had numerous outtakes of his that were not used the first time around. So we removed his solos and started to compose songs in the key he was playing in. That seemed to be a good starting point for us.
JazzReview: Were the selection of cuts a difficult task, being apart for some time? What selections were a must to make the project a successful venture?
Mark Reilly: We just did not want to come back in a nostalgic way. We wanted to write good songs, therefore we spent a lot of time crafting our songs. I think there are four or five we did not use. The cuts were not labored over too much. It was spontaneous in many ways.
JazzReview: The fan base is all too familiar with the names Mark, Basia, and Danny, but the late saxophonist Ronnie Ross seems to have been the driving force on this project. Talk to his impact and influence on Matt’s Mood 2004.
Mark Reilly: Ronnie had his heyday in the fifties and sixties; he played the solo on Walk on the Wild Side with Lou Reed. He was very much part of that British Jazz movement and was not given enough credit. We were just plain lucky to have him. Ronnie did tours with Danny, Basia, plus myself and passed about twelve years ago. We think he will be pleased with what we have done.
JazzReview: Basia’s vocals are so very sultry and penetrating. In this project, do you note any changes in her style since you last were together?
Mark Reilly: She states she has gone to a mellower vibe than some of her tracks on the Basia album because she felt that would suit the start of the songs. As in Ordinary Day and Say the Words, which sound great. But in rehearsal, she sounds world class to me.
JazzReview: What cut stands out for you in the project?
Mark Reilly: Of course we like all the tracks, however it is very interesting how people’s preferences are. Ordinary Day seemed like a good bridge from our last album. There is a lot of diversity on this album. I do not have a clear favorite. I am just very proud of the album.
JazzReview: Is there one cut that was more intense to mix and put together?
Mark Reilly: Funny you ask, the instrumental took the longest. [Laugh] We kept working that track, going through different changes. It took a long time, but we felt we got it right. It’s an ironic thing that an instrumental took longer than the songs.
JazzReview: What future concepts or plans have Matt Bianco discussed?
Mark Reilly: First thing is the tour to promote the album in America. In June, we come back and do the jazz festivals in Europe. Hopefully in the Summer, come back to America for the shows there. That’s the immediate plans, then [to]start doing some more writing.
JazzReview: When Mark is home and the stereo is on, what is coming out?
Mark Reilly: For the last couple days I have been playing an album by King Pleasure, a jazz vocalist. I really like it. It sounds great to me.
JazzReview: What would you like to say to the fans of Matt Bianco that needs to be said?
Mark Reilly: You put me on the spot there. [Laughs] Just that it’s going to be interesting to see ourselves together for the first time live. We hope they enjoy it.
The masses will enjoy and witness a slightly more mature experience to the sight and sound of Matt Bianco. Their tribute to Ronnie Ross accentuates this whole effort both on stage and in studio. This is a must see performance for all ages, jazz aficionados or not.
Note the change is Basia’s delivery and tone, very becoming of her today. Mark is Mark as solid vocally has he has ever been - always complimenting the composition and arrangement. Danny has his keyboards fresh, each note bonding the vocals together. This is a mix of talent that needed a second chance, so be it and it is!
This is not a stereotypical reunion effort for as Mark stated, he wanted to write good music in a new era. That he has accomplished! I can only envision the future will uncover the Matt Bianco revitalized and fresh.