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Matthew Stevens - Pittsburgh (Whirlwind)

20 October 2021

Between the pandemic and a fractured elbow, guitarist Matthew Stevens (axeman for Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington’s Social Science, In Common and a dozen more) found himself stuck at home, so he did what musicians do: wrote new music that eventually became part of his physical therapy. The results of that creative labor rest on Pittsburgh, a collection of solo acoustic pieces recorded in the titular city.

Originally intended to be sketches for development at a later date, the songs settled into being complete in and of themselves, with Stevens generating patterns, following their offshoots, and adding smidgens of improvisation for spice. The fast strumming of “Cocoon,” the multi-section picking of “Purpose of a Machine” and the eclectic groove of “Blue Blues” move forward with conviction, Stevens finding the finality in each piece’s melodic structure without a hint that any of these songs began as incomplete. Recorded simply, without reverb or concern for avoiding things like the squeak of a fingertip along the strings, Pittsburgh finds healing in simplicity, honoring the initial creative spark as a path to wellness.