Singer, songwriter, and mega-instrumentalist Matt Venuti (pronounced va-new-tee) has a musical style that’s been labeled “Ambient Fusion” and “Acoustic Alternative”, but his audiences are often at a loss for words to categorize the immersive experience that Matt’s concerts are known for.
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His latest album, The Rhythm Of Life, epitomizes that experience. Warm, velvety vocals supported by a bevy of captivating instruments deliver a melodic and poetic journey…one that traverses the heart and soul of a man who has experienced a full gamut of the joys and challenges of life. This music offers a profound and heart-warming reminder of our true essence and our connection to each other and the planet…a timely and welcoming alternative to the troubling divisiveness and discontent that is prevalent in our world today.
Matt tours nearly year-round, accompanying himself on the 21st Century melodic-percussive instruments called the Hang, Gubal, and Hang Gu, that are best described as “sound sculptures” and that he uses to create kaleidoscopic rhythms and melodies that are awe-inspiring and unforgettable. He is known throughout the world as one of the premier players of this new breed of instrument that has set off a modern renaissance in musical instrument design. Even though he has a penchant for acoustic instruments, Matt also has a vast background in electronic music and is one of the pioneer players of the Electronic Valve Instrument (EVI).
Matt has a history of performing at progressive events like the TED and TEDx (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conferences and diverse venues that range from house concerts and major clubs to conventions and concert halls. He’s released numerous popular and ground-breaking recordings such as Dance Of The Helix, Hangisphere, and Bliss Attack. His band, The Venusians, have for years been seminal in the ambient and world music scene of San Francisco and the West Coast. The Venusians’ album, Hot Planet received extensive airplay and was in the top 10 on CMJ charts.
More About Matt
Matt’s father was a jazz pianist and Matt started piano lessons at an early age before switching to trumpet. He became enthralled with the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) after seeing Mike Metheny performing on an early experimental model. Matt got one of the rare instruments, and when the Akai Corporation began marketing it, Matt was hired to travel around the country demonstrating the progressive instrument. In addition, his band The Venusians were getting popular in San Francisco and became favorites of the “digerati” of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area with Apple, Google, Yahoo, Oracle and Microsoft hiring them to play gala industry events. The group was also favorites at festivals such as Burning Man and in the San Francisco Undergound Scene. According to Venuti, “My band-mates were stellar musicians who could play anything that I could conjure up, including something you might hear from the Star Wars Cantina Band. That was when George Lucas hired us to be that band for his Star Wars Gala event in San Francisco when he released the first prequel of the classic series. That event was a game-changer for the band and the calls were pouring in. We were employing cirque-like acrobats and exotic performing artists that complimented our interstellar identity. Craigslist founder Craig Newmark dubbed us the ‘Emissaries of Sonic Shamanism’.”
Because Venuti was playing the cutting-edge EVI, pop music celebrity Thomas Dolby asked Matt to play at the main TED Conference in his “TED House Band” with Dolby, Michael Manring and Rachelle Garniez in front of the most influential leaders in the worlds of technology, entertainment and design. In addition, Venuti was asked to open the conference with a solo EVI performance, and to give his own TED talk about the instrument on the closing day.
When Venuti discovered the Hang
Eventually Venuti discovered the Hang, a contemporary instrument introduced at the beginning of this century that resembles a flying saucer. Remarkably this metal-alloyed instrument, which is played with the hands, can be performed both melodically and rhythmically…simultaneously…with a tonal quality never before heard, yet it is extremely captivating. Explains Venuti, “Hang means ‘hand’ in Swiss-German, where two brilliant artists and instrument-makers, Felix Rohner and Sabina Sharer, created it from their small company named PANArt. This instrument was not available in stores and very few were brought into the USA. I fatefully managed to acquire two hangs and recorded a CD combining the Hangs with other instruments. I sent the CD with a note of gratitude to the instrument-makers and they replied by requesting more CDs and inviting me to visit them. It would be the first of yearly trips to Switzerland. The Hang kept evolving along with the material that it was made of, a patented metal alloy that Felix and Sabina created called Pang. Their Gubal instrument came some years later and was PANArt’s definitive step forward from the Hang. With the Gubal the sounds of a small ensemble could be accessed from my lap. It’s also an ideal accompaniment for my vocal compositions, stories and spoken-word poetry. These instruments have offered me a unique expression that has sustained me and deepened my connection to the world, to music and to sound.”
Matt remembers when he met Yolanda Bain, a yoga teacher. “She was standing on her head at the beach on a brisk day in late November. She became my wife and her fate would influence my life in unimaginable ways. Of all the twists and turns in my life, nothing would have as profound an impact as my wife’s death at the end of our 20th year together. My heart was shattered and I would escape to nature with the Hang instruments, visiting the redwoods, the canyons, the ocean, the desert…anywhere that offered solace and self-reflection. In time my heart was feeling full again, but with a level of maturity that was more authentic and enduring. I began to develop musical motifs that came from these visits to nature’s sanctuaries, and they later evolved into compositions. I was writing lyrics that reflected the delicate passage of life…songs of love, loss and surrender. I soon realized this wasn’t simply my journey, but the journey of all humans, all of life. I found a renewed strength and commitment to music with this new form of expression. My experiences and observations of the cycles of life have shaped my art.”
This journey is reflected in the music on Matt’s latest recording, The Rhythm of Life, which contains nine original songs plus a powerful version of Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me.” The lyrics on the original material are heartfelt, spirit-filled, uplifting, and insightful. Venuti sings lead vocals and plays several generations of the Hang, plus the Gubal, the Gudu, the Electronic Valve Instrument, keyboards, percussion and other instruments. He’s accompanied by a rich layering of female backing vocals and his band-mates Robert Powell on pedal steel guitar, Daniel Berkman on African harp (Kora) John Steiner on piano and organ, Celso Alberti on drums and Peck Allmond on trumpet. “This is music to inspire and to bring joy, contemplation and enchantment into your life,” states Venuti. “Proceed with abandonment!”
Visit Matt’s website at www.mattvenuti.com for more information, album releases and Matt’s highly acclaimed self-produced music videos. Most of Matt’s commercial recordings are available as CDs and digital downloads at the most popular sales sites.