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BWW Interview: Matt Baker of JIM CARUSO'S CAST PARTY at Birdland - Guest Journalist: Jim Caruso

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Matt Baker's not just a pianist and Jim Caruso's not just an entertainer. Watch them stretch their wings.

BWW Interview: Matt Baker of JIM CARUSO'S CAST PARTY at Birdland - Guest Journalist: Jim Caruso There are no limits to the talents of Jim Caruso, the charming creator and host of the long-standing weekly open mic CAST PARTY, one of Birdland's most popular shows. At a recent casual encounter Mr. Caruso asked me if I had seen the new video created by piano man Matt Baker and, as I had not, I asked him to please send me the information, that it would make a nice article for Broadway World, that I would get to it as soon as my schedule permitted.

Ever industrious (and considerate of this editor's insane schedule) Jim Caruso (an English and grammar geek from way back) did me one better: he sent me the video and a photo and a brief interview he did with the budding film maker. So, with my gratitude, Broadway World Cabaret is happy to debut the work of a budding journalist, along with the work of cinematic art created by his good friend and colleague Matt Baker. Bravo, Matt! And, Jim, any time you want to switch careers....


Jim Caruso's interview with Matt Baker was submitted digitally and is reproduced in its entirety.

Australian-born Jazz Pianist Matt Baker has been headlining in New York City, the city he has called home, since 2010. He also performs regularly as a sideman and/or accompanist at jazz venues including Birdland and The Blue Note, tours within the USA and internationally, and has released 6 albums, his latest a DVD album "Live at Birdland." But with his talent and love for photography and filmmaking on the ascent, it seems that Mr. Baker has two successful and very creative careers. He recently produced, directed, and edited a short film documenting the reopening of Jim Caruso's Cast Party at Birdland. Matt and his trusty camera followed the host (me!) of the iconic open mic/variety show as we prepared for the big event and documented the excitement and musical performances at the Grand Reopening. I was excited to discuss the project, as well as the addition of a new career with Mr. Baker.

What made you decide to create the film celebrating the reopening of Cast Party?

I had a feeling the reopening of Cast Party was going to be a very special event and felt it should be documented. In eighteen years of Mondays, you never took a week off from Cast Party. After an eighteen-month shutdown, the opening night was going to be a massive celebration. Since Birdland is my musical home, I was extra excited about the club's re-opening and wanted this to be my contribution to help the club and Cast Party get back on their feet.




What has Cast Party meant to you as a musician?

Cast Party has given me a place to perform every Monday night and a place to see and meet other performers. Birdland is not just any old place - on one of the world's premiere stages, the jazz corner of the world, and Cast Party has been a place of astounding networking opportunities. Many musicians and industry folk pass through the doors each Monday night, and it's been a huge source of work and career opportunities for me. Although Cast Party is primarily geared for vocalists, I'm grateful that you also include instrumentalists such as myself in the lineup. Performing as a trio with house bassist Steve Doyle and drummer Daniel Glass keeps my performance chops hot and inspires me to practice and prepare each week.

Give me a few sentences about the other films you've worked on...

I've done a lot of independent film work for musicians, vocalists, and actors in the past, creating demo reels for them, music videos, or content for social media. I've also had an ongoing documentary project, "Voices of the Street" for a few years, interviewing homeless people to post on the project's website (www.voicesofthestreet.com). We're currently in production for a full-length documentary on homeless people in New York, to be released soon. Outside of music though, most people know me as a still photographer. Video only makes up about 5% of my work!

You've been shooting so many great photos - do you get a lot of satisfaction from photography?

I get a huge amount of satisfaction from photography! In fact, it's a similar satisfaction to what I get out of performing music. With photography, I get great joy when someone sees their images and realizes the beauty they have in themselves. Sometimes they are seeing it for the first time. The excitement they get when they see the final edited photos is like what I feel as a performer when someone attends my concert. You're making people happy, bringing joy, sharing talent, creating inspiration, and helping someone believe in themselves. It's a beautiful thing.

Find great shows to see at Birdland, including Jim Caruso's Cast Party, HERE
Visit the Matt Baker photography website HERE
Visit the Matt Baker music website HERE
Jim Caruso has a website HERE

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