Matthew WhitakerNow Hear This RESILIENCE MUSIC ALLIANCE

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Though he’s still only 18 years old, Matthew Whitaker has come a long way to get where he is today, overcoming adversity and dedicating countless hours to honing his craft. Now, with his declarative label debut Now Hear This, Whitaker announces himself as a major new voice on jazz piano, organ, and a wide range of keyboard instruments.


Due out August 9 via Resilience Music AllianceNow Hear This teams Whitaker with a stellar all-star band featuring guitarist Dave Stryker, bassist Yunior Terry, drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., and percussionist Sammy Figueroa. Keyboard great Marc Cary and flutist Gabrielle Garo also make special guest appearances. The album was overseen by GRAMMY® Award-winning producer Brian Bacchus, who has worked closely with the likes of Gregory Porter, Norah Jones, Randy Weston and Sullivan Fortner, among others.


But it’s Whitaker that commands the spotlight, evidencing a bold and confident sense of swing and a wide-ranging palette that spans straight-ahead jazz and hard bop to R&B and Latin influences. Supplementing his virtuoso piano skills with soulful Hammond organ and coloristic synthesizers, Whitakerleaves any “prodigy” stigma far behind on this stunner of an album.


Whitaker’s distinctive voice would be captivating under any circumstances, but the obstacles that he’s had to overcome in his young life make Now Hear This all the more breathtaking. He was born three months premature in 2001, weighing less than two pounds and able to fit in the palm of his father’s hand. The newborn was given less than a 50% chance of surviving; the oxygen that he was given by doctors allowed him to live but cost him his sight.


Blindness proved no obstacle to playing music, however, and Whitaker displayed preternatural talents from the first moment he touched a keyboard. That initial opportunity came at the age of 3, whenWhitaker’s grandfather gifted him a small Yamaha keyboard. “I would come home from school and teach myself nursery rhymes,” Whitaker recalls. “No one showed me how, I just started playing. If I can hear it, I can play it.”


At 5 Whitaker began studying classical piano at the Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School in New York City, the only community music school for the blind and visually impaired in the United States. He continues to work closely with the school; his heartfelt composition “Emotions” was written expressly for a performance there. “They’ve supported me since I was 5 and they continue to do that to this day,”Whitaker says.

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