Jazz Prodigy Shows off ‘Black-Key Magic'

Jazz fans turned out Saturday to spend an afternoon with a piano prodigy in Kensington.

Last Saturday, the Edgeware Gallery and the Autism Research Institute presented a free concert featuring Matt Savage, an accomplished teenage jazz musician, at the Kensington Community Church.

Images: Matt Savage at the Kensington Community Church

Savage, 18, and his mother flew out from their home in New Hampshire specifically for the performance. When asked if Matt would be performing anywhere else during their trip to the West Coast, Diane said the appearance was a gift that they had wanted to give to the Autism Research Institute for quite some time.

These days, Matt is a student at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston and has released eight albums during his musical career, which began at the age of 8. He has made numerous TV appearances, including on Late Night With Conan O'Brien, The Late Show With David Letterman, 20/20 and The Today Show.

Eleven of the 13 songs Matt performed in Kensington were original compositions by Matt. The set was eclectic, ranging from solemn and seemingly more serious pieces to songs vividly demonstrating Matt's genuine sense of humor.

Though they had only met three hours prior to the concert, Bob Magnusson on bass and Duncan Moore on drums seamlessly accompanied Matt’s performance seamlessly.

Matt's performance not only contained layers of his own personality but also the diverse cultural influences on his music. Prior to performing his song "Black-Key Magic," Matt invited the audience "to bring in the hip-hop," to the ensueing piece, then ended the concert with "Curacao," a Latin-inspired tune written after his trip to the Caribbean.

At the age of 3, Matt was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, a form of autism. After much research and investigation, Matt's parents got in touch with the institute when Diane called Dr. Stephen B. Edelson, the director of the Autism Research Institute. Although it was 11 p.m. in San Diego, Edelson picked up the call. In the ensuing years, Matt's parents followed the institute's recommendations.

"Matt wouldn’t be where he is today if we hadn't followed his recommendations," Diane said.

Dr. Erin Kenney, who assisted in organizing Saturday's performance, commented about Matt's influence within the autism community.

"Matt shows people what's possible," Kenney said.

Kenney's point was evident throughout the performance. Matt, an amazingly engaged and immensely talented performer, executee a compelling and emotional performance, leaving all members of the audience inspired.

Matt has also appeared on CNN, the Discovery Channel and the National Geographic Channel, and has performed on NPR's "Piano Jazz With Marian McPartland" and "All Things Considered."

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