Matthew Silberman saxophonist and producer aka Narducci steps out with an ep called Break The Silence. It’s evidently a title loaded with the trials and tribulations of the LA raised saxophonist.
Brought up on a stable diet of Charlie Parker (1920-1955) right through to Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) Narducci (now 36) found a passion in music fostered by his mother and father. While he learnt the piano and the clarinet it was the saxophone which “changed his life”. A life dedicated to music has followed.
Work with names like Miguel and an #itchysilk favourite Bilal just a few of the many names he can lay claim to have worked with. But for any artist worth their salt there must be a time where they create music that reflects them.
To that end his latest ep (the first in a trilogy of releases) is a project he proudly states is a project in “his own voice as an artist”. It’s a project that appears to resist containment. For some its rather esoteric, spacy and slightly expansive sound might be too overwhelming. But it is in the world of the alluring hypnotic qualities of the saxophone that Narducci seems to flourish.
Let’s talk ‘you’ in your formative years growing up with family and how that impacted on your chosen path into music?
My mom is an opera singer, teacher, and producer. I’ve been around music since I was in the womb. I started playing piano at six, clarinet at nine, and saxophone at thirteen. Once I started learning saxophone I knew right away that music would be my life’s path. My grandmother came to the U.S. when she was 17 from a small shtetl (Jewish village) in the Polish Ukraine, one year before the Nazis invaded. One of her first jobs was singing Yiddish songs on her rabbi’s radio show. Music is in my blood. There was always a piano around, and my dad would play a lot of R&B on the stereo: Earth Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye (1939-1984) and whatnot.
Can you name a moment or person who not only had an impact on you but evidently steered you into the path of music?
Charlie Parker had the biggest impact in terms of dedicating my life to music. My dad introduced me to him and the saxophone when I was 13-it changed my life. I became obsessed with him, and music in general-and still am. In terms of producing I would say Flying Lotus. Cosmogramma (2010) and Until The Quiet Comes (2012) really inspired me and changed my vision for my own music. The mystical, infinite vibe he gets, the blend of musical elements. I had to incorporate what he’s doing into my own music.
Can you remember the first track or album you heard that had an emotional connection with you?
The first album I can remember listening to was Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf (1936) I’d ask my mom to play it for me all the time. It has this magical quality to it. I loved how each character was represented by their own instrument, and how the instruments blended to tell the story. It inspired elements of my track Celestial Journey.
Can you tell us about your educational journey in terms of music, we note you attended the NYC Jazz programme?
My mom was careful not to force me to take lessons, but by the time I was six I asked her if I could study piano. I was lucky to go to LACHSA as well as playing in the LA Multi-School Jazz Band. Between the two I met a lot of great friends and musicians that I still work with to this day. For college I went to the New School in NYC, which has a great jazz program where I met and studied with tons of great musicians as well.
In jazz a lot of the time it seems like you must pass a test or a checklist: can they play this style-do they know this lick-do they know this tune?
In your PR it talks about the weight of jazz tradition. For all its freedom are elements of jazz quite restrictive?
There’s an interesting dichotomy in jazz between tradition and innovation. Some jazz musicians want the music to sound very much like what’s come before, while some want it to sound almost like nothing which has come before, and most are somewhere in between.
Either way, there’s an expectation by jazz musicians to study the entire history of the music and be able to play in any style that’s come before. In most other styles of music, people are interested in your opinion of their music. It’s a more simple, direct reaction.
In jazz a lot of the time it seems like you must pass a test or a checklist: can they play this style-do they know this lick-do they know this tune? This can get in the way of musicians finding their own path and style because they’re so preoccupied with proving themselves instead of just expressing themselves. In that sense I do think that the jazz world can be restrictive, which is ironic because the music itself is some of the most free. I think a lot of jazz musicians these days are trying harder to impress each other more so than focusing on how they want their own music to sound.
Jazz has also been accused of being too elitist.
Elitism is a factor, but I don’t think that’s entirely a bad thing. There’s a refreshing lack of acceptance of bullshit in the jazz world. If someone who ‘can’t play’ comes to a jam session, people will let them know and discourage them from coming back until they get to an acceptable level.
For some, like myself, it makes you stronger and inspires you to practice and get your shit together. It’s what made Charlie Parker. It’s a kind of Darwinism. The negative side of that elitism is that a lot of better and more well-known players will ‘vibe’ others and be douchey to them. This fosters a negative environment and makes the music almost more of an athletic competition than art. It’s a double-edged sword.
What makes the sax such an important staple of jazz?
I think the saxophone is the instrument that’s closest to the human voice. The sound, and the way you can shape notes, make it almost like you’re singing. Because jazz comes from a West African musical tradition, where the voice and the drums are of primary importance. The saxophone’s ability to mimic the voice make it a very important element in jazz. Also, (for whatever reason), a lot of the music’s big innovators have been saxophonists: Lester Young (1909-1959), Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman (1939-2015), John Coltrane (1926-1967) to more modern saxophonists like: Steve Coleman, John Zorn, Mark Turner.
We know you have worked with artists like Miguel and Bilal but generally talk about the impact working with names like these has had on you?
There’s always something to learn working with great musicians. Miguel has a great work ethic, clear vision, and a lot of style; he knows how he wants his music and his voice to sound and doesn’t stop until it’s ‘right.’ He’s also just a super nice, warm, friendly guy.
Bilal has impeccable timing and phrasing, and can do so much with his voice, is so expressive, and like me, trains martial arts. He’s a deep thinker. Daron Malakian (System of a Down) taught me so much about song-writing, how to structure things, and how to perform. He’s literally ready to go to war before a show, and you can feel that focus and intensity on stage, it’s infectious. At the end of the day, they’re just human beings too. You realize that we’re all just trying to make great music at the end of the day.
Break the Silence is…..a statement of intent, that I’m ready, spiritually and technically, to be who I was always meant to be.
How has your discography formed a foundation to your most recent project Break The Silence?
I wish I would’ve properly recorded more of my early music to be honest. I’ve always been super hard on myself. I’m an OCD perfectionist, so there’s a lot of music that I wrote and performed in my 20’s that I never put out.
My first album, Questionable Creatures (2012) (under my government name) was cathartic. I’d spent the last 16-17 years learning the jazz tradition and finding myself in it. Putting it out was a kind of release. I felt free to start producing and making music completely my way, without caring about being considered a jazz musician or not. Sense Of Space (2014) released under the name DeSoto, from my original producer name Narducci DeSoto (also the name of my production company) was my first EP after dedicating myself to producing. It’s kind of raw in a way, but very heartfelt. I was searching, only concerned with making the music I was feeling, and not appealing to any specific style, or market, or anything except exploring the depths of my soul.
I made Break the Silence after spending a few years focused on producing for other artists (Leron Thomas, the soundtrack to Allergic to Flowers (2017), Shay Saint-Victor, and some other projects that unfortunately didn’t get released. I felt like I needed to get back to making my own music. By that time my skills and experience as a producer had grown a lot. I had the ability, musical understanding, and experience to make the music I feel I was born to make.
The tile for the project sounds like there is a clear statement you are making-discuss that?
Definitely. In part, it’s a social/political statement. Break the Silence comes from Martin Luther King Jr.’s (1928-1968) speech Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence (1967), which I sampled on the title track. I feel humanity is at a crossroads. It’s easier than ever to learn and communicate with people, but in many ways, we’re becoming even more disconnected, rigid, and tribal. There’s so much dis-information, propaganda, and people demonizing each other. People are not understanding one another or empathizing with each other’s points of view.
Break the Silence is about challenging people to seek and speak the truth. Stopping the powers that be from making us complacent. We’re at an evolutionary crossroads. Quite literally the survival of our species is in jeopardy with the threat of climate change, pollution, and nuclear war. People need to raise their voices and take action. We cannot allow falsehoods or false prophets divide us.
It’s also a personal statement, a declaration. I had been doing so much behind the scenes but didn’t feel I was contributing anything through my own voice as an artist. I felt that I needed to step forward and start regularly releasing my own music to inspire and affect people and put more positive energy, love, and truth into the world.
It’s a four-track project. Break down the project.
Gaia represents the earth, the universe, and all possibilities. The infinite nature of space mixed with Mother Nature’s warm embrace. Piano is more about introspection, looking inward, meditating, getting away from the monotony and potential shallowness of day-to-day life. Break the Silence is about raising your voice, speaking your truth, and not letting fear stop you. Celestial Journey (as the title says), is a voyage through space. An invitation to see the wonder of the universe.
And what about the project’s place as part of a trilogy of eps that you will be dropping?
Break the Silence is the first. It’s a statement of intent, that I’m ready, spiritually and technically, to be who I was always meant to be. It transitions from my background in jazz and classical into more modern music, and it’s the most spacey and esoteric of the three. Journey to Los Angeles is the second. It is more grounded, earthy and groove-based. The third I don’t have a name for yet, but it’s more electronic, dark, gritty, and more dance/beat-oriented.
Talk to us about the collaborators?
On Break the Silence I’m honored to have some amazing musicians. Rama Duke is one of the best vocalists I know, a friend since high school. She’s worked with everyone from George Clinton, Macy Gray to Tricky. Mike Tree is a close friend and amazing drummer who’s worked with Miguel, Jhene Aiko, and Wu-Tang. We play together in The Orbellion as well. I met him through Mac Robinson and Brian Warfield (Fisticuffs), which is also how I met Doc Allison, who also plays cello on 3 tracks and and has worked with Jhene, Yuna, and Childish Gambino among many others. Heibert is a star in Armenia; I met through Orbel Babayan (The Orbellion, Scars On Broadway) when I moved back to LA and he’s become a good friend. Sarah Parkington is an old friend from NYC who’s worked with Sonya Kitchell and Dub Trio. Amy Sanchez, I met for the first time when we recorded. She was recommended by mutual friends and has worked with Dave Matthews and Kamasi Washington among many others.
Tell us a bit about the second ep, Journey To Los Angeles if you will/can.
I don’t want to say too much yet, but Journey to Los Angeles represents me moving back home to LA from NYC. The music is more rooted in the sounds and vibes that I associate specifically with LA. It blends hard rock, hip-hop, electronic music, acid jazz, and film music. It also represents the different vibes and polarities LA can have, from happy, sun-soaked beaches, to dark, never-ending highways; from extreme wealth to desolate poverty; from the friendliest, realest, most creative people to two-faced jackals who will eat your soul for profit.
Featured image by Visual Thought
Second image by Corey Ulrich