Matthew Stevens, guitarist for Esperanza Spalding and Christian Scott, steps out on his own | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Music » Concert Preview

Matthew Stevens, guitarist for Esperanza Spalding and Christian Scott, steps out on his own


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Toronto-born Matthew Stevens represents a new breed of jazz guitarist. He’s an improviser with a deep investment in harmonic exploration, but his music dispenses with most of the hallmarks of jazz, at least stylistically. He’s made his name working with two artists who’ve forsaken jazz orthodoxy in favor of pop-leaning hybrids—trumpeter Christian Scott and paradigm-shifting bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding—and Stevens’s own music follows suit. Preverbal (Ropeadope) is a slick, groove-heavy trio album that embraces the rhythmic prerogatives of pop and funk. Over dense, tricky parts laid down by bassist Vicente Archer (a frequent sideman for Robert Glasper) and drummer Eric Doob—plus layers of looped electronic beats, samples, and synthesizer textures—the guitarist creates shimmering lines and chords that twitch, reverberate, and ooze. Rather than unleashing extended single-­note runs, Stevens conceives of improvisational gambits for the trio as a whole, progressing from one statement to the next as a unified band. There are moments of repose, such as when the final section of “Cocoon” suddenly pulls back to a whisper, allowing Stevens to trace lines that float meditatively. Similarly, the closing track, “Our Reunion,” opens with airy guest vocals from Spalding before an imperturbable hard-rock groove kicks in.   v

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →