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Fusion guitarist Matt Hudson brings his quartet to two area venues 

click to enlarge Missing 1998-2002: Hudson
  • Missing 1998-2002: Hudson

If an arts foundation wanted to conduct a demographic survey of the stereotypical college graduate who leaves Pittsburgh as soon as humanly possible, it could just interview guitarist Matt Hudson at his home in Chicago.

A native of Erie, Hudson began studying his chosen instrument in high school, with area bebop legend Frank Singer. Later, in Pitt's jazz program, he studied under Nathan Davis, Joe Negri and Mathew Rosenblum, each contributing to an aspect of Hudson's artistic development.

"Nathan was into an ass-kicking, discipline-practice regimen, almost in a militant type of way. He challenged me to dedicate many hours a day," recalls Hudson, "while Joe helped me slow it down and play more simply and effectively. Joe's also big on history -- we started with Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt, then went to Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery, and I started on my own to listen to Wayne Shorter."

Hudson's writing skills were enabled by composition studies with Rosenblum. "I could have a conversation with him about sax players, because he knows all about that stuff. So even though I was taking simple theory classes, I was able to relate, and from there I started to write tunes."

During his Steel City sojourn, Hudson immersed himself in the small but active club scene, gigging around with vocalist Gene Stovall, trombonist Reggie Watkins and drummer Steve Bidwell, who later moved to New Orleans. Hudson's live band stops here this week to play two area shows, including a CD release at the Shadow Lounge; the quartet includes drummer Anthony Reid, bassist Will Baggett and keyboardist William Kurk, plus special guest vocalist Stovall, who co-captained a band with Hudson in Chicago called The Rhetoric.

On his self-titled release, laden with polished licks and fusion grooves, Hudson has one number called "I Miss 1998 to 2002," a reference to the period when he was listening to Chicago post-rockers Tortoise. So it's no surprise that after briefly considering the Big Apple, he finally settled into the Windy City only a few months after finishing Pitt.

Hudson's CD contains some club-oriented elements, thanks to Anthony Nicholson, an influential Chicago house/nu-jazz producer. "[Anthony] likes things to sound smooth," says Hudson. "I wasn't so sold on it, but he said 'I'm going to Milan to DJ and I need a track I can play there.' I was cool with that -- he didn't have to twist my arm."

Yet Hudson says the band doesn't relish being stuck in either the nu-jazz or fusion categories. "We want to create our own identity. I look forward to doing more shows to see how it's going to come off. Our interests are diverse, and I don't listen to fusion all day. When you called, I had 'Born to Run' on [the CD player] and before that Earth, Wind and Fire, so it's not like I'm sitting here learning Mike Stern licks. We really want to make an attempt to reach people who aren't just fusion heads."

Hudson CD release. 9 p.m. Thu., Oct. 25. Shadow Lounge, 5972 Baum Blvd., East Liberty. $5. 412-363-8277

Also 10 p.m. Sat. Oct. 27. Gullifty's, 1922 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill. $10. 412-521-8222

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