Big band composer and arranger: Duluth’s Tom Matta knows the score

Among the Minnesotans who are making strong contributions to improvisational music is Duluth native Tom Matta, a trombonist, composer and arranger who teaches at DePaul University in Chicago.

The Tom Matta Big Band’s recording “Components” was one of the notable albums from Minnesotans in 2013, with strong compositions, polished arrangements and artful solos.

Tom Matta

The tunes reflect the composer’s belief that big band music should rely heavily on improvisation, with soloists in mind.

“There are shout choruses and a sax solo here and there,” Matta said. “[I’m] really just trying to put together a program, just like I would when I play a set. I try to be very democratic about putting seven tunes on this CD that would feature some of my favorite players.”

Though Matta doesn’t see himself making a living as a performer, he enjoys writing music that helps others grow. He also loves leading a big band, sometimes from the section, and sometimes out front, knowing full well that the final result could be surprising.

Tom Matta Big Band

“Even though we have charts and we have double bars and forms and repeats and we’ve rehearsed a little bit, nothing is absolutely certain that it’s going to be the same way each night or any night,” he said. “The other side of that is anything is possible.”