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For those who are familiar with the world of Jazz Accordion, Mat Mathews needs no introduction. Born in Den Hague, The Netherlands, Mathews made musical history with his button key accordion. A self-taught musician, he began to play at the age of ten, when his parents gave him his first instrument.

He was Born on June 18, 1924, Hubert Matieu Schwarts. To ensure his success in the U.S., he later changed his name to Mat Mathews as a stage name. His parents were catholic and his family struggled during WWII, living in occupied Holland. 

MAT MATHEWS 
JAZZ ACCORDION














Just before the war ended and due to his anti-war political views, he became a POW in a Nazi work camp where he played accordion as a means of survival.  He escaped by jumping out of a train and managed to hide in his parent's attic for 3 months until the war was over.  After the war, Mat was determined become a professional Jazz musician.   His progress was remarkable in those difficult days that followed the war.  With a Quartet, Mat broadcast for over a year on Radio Luxembourg.  

Mathews moved to the United States in 1952. He appeared as a soloist on many radio and television shows in the U.S., Italy,Scandinavia and Germany. He was the first accordionist to play at Birdland, with his combo, featuring Herbie Mann. He has also played at other famous jazz venues throughout the world.  Mathews has performed and recorded with Paul Whiteman, Quincy Jones, Sy Oliver, BilIy Byers, Charles Aznavour and Burt Bacharach.  He appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival and did arrangements and recordings with Carmen McRea and Paulette Girard.   Metronome Magazine voted Mathews "Musician of the Year" and one of his compositions was recorded by John Coltrane.   He has also recorded with Tony Scott, Billy Butterfield, Buddy Tate, Kai Winding, Harry Edison and Wild Bill Davis.

The story of his life could have easily be titled "Local Boy from Den Hague Makes Good" Mathews had always shunned that status and went about his business in his typical and unobtrusive way.  He always strived for his own "beautiful sound and the right chords".  Put that philosophy together with his devotion to the great American songbook and the standards of yesteryear, and you have the essence of Mat Mathews: Poet of the accordion.  His one-time idol, Joe Mooney (the blind accordionist and vocalist) was a great influense on Mathews and was the main reason why he left war-torn Europe behind to try his luck on the U.S.  By mere chance he wound up in Mooney's former spot in the Whitman band and from then on this securer as a unique role in the turbulent jazz world of the early fifties, rubbing Shoulders with Miles and Monk.  In the early fifties, Mathews established his own group with Joe Puma, Percy Heath, Kenny Clarke and Osie Johnson.  He also accompanied Carmen McRea on her tours and club curcuit dates.  His arranging and skills as a composer did not go unnoticed.  John Coltrane and Oscar Pettiford both recorded his song "Not So Sleepy".   With a lull in the Jazz scene in the early sixties, Mathews took refuge in the Studio World where his services were sought by Charles Aznavour, Doug Duke and others.  While living in Atlanta in the 1980's, Delta Airlines hired him to do record the in-flight music for trans-Atlantic flights to Europe.

Throughout his life Mat devoted his life to playing and recording music. He was invited to be a regular studio musician on the Lawrence Welk Show, but Mat declined so that he could devote his life to Jazz. Mat Mathews died on February 9, 2009.  He is missed by many and will always be remembered for his signicant contributions to Jazz Accordion. 

What the critics say about Mat Mathews
Mat Mathews developed ideas for new sounds with his button key accordion.   He is hailed as the first musician to produce modern Jazz and attractive new combo sounds with the accordion.  
Leonard Feather
Encyclopedia of Jazz

A thoroughly modern musician...the first to make the accordion entirely commendable in Jazz.  
Barry Unalov
A Handbook of Jazz

Mat Mathews an accordionist from the Netherlands, had only a brief appearance at the Jazz concert at Town Hall Saturday night.  But it was all he needed to capture the evening.  Playing an amplified button key accordion, he swung brightly through tow short selections, mixing warm sonority with sharp, cleanly defined imaginative phrasing. His zest and assurance were as refreshing and welcome as the ready flow of his provocative ideas.
John Wilson
New York Times

Mat Mathews is the best and possibly the only accordion in the Jazz field.  
Ralph Gieson
San Francisco Chronicle

I have never before hear a pops accordion player as fanciful, subtle and deverting as Mathews, yet is is probably his incomparable imagination as an arranger that gives this whole programme its arresting, original and zestful character.
R.D. Darrell
High Fidelity Magazine

Mathews can really wail Jazz, even on ballads
Nat Hentoff
Downbeat Magazine

Mat Mathews is capable of constructing solos that have both wit and considerable emotional weight.
Whitney Balliet,
New Yorker Magazine


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