Interview: Matt Baker from JIM CARUSO’S CAST PARTY at Birdland
There are no limits to the talents of Jim Caruso, the charming creator and host of the longtime open mic weekly CAST PARTY, one of Birdland’s most popular shows. During a recent occasional meeting, Mr. Caruso asked me if I had seen the new video created by pianist Matt Baker and, since I had not, I asked him to send me information, that it would make a great article for Broadway World, that I would get there as soon as my schedule allowed.
Always industrious (and attentive to this editor’s insane schedule), Jim Caruso (a long-time connoisseur of English and grammar) did me better: he sent me the video and a photo and a brief interview that ‘he did with the budding filmmaker. So, with my gratitude, Broadway World Cabaret is happy to launch the work of an aspiring journalist, as well as the cinematic art work created by his good friend and colleague Matt Baker. Well done, Matt! And, Jim, whenever you want to change careers …
Jim Caruso’s interview with Matt Baker has been digitally submitted and is reproduced in its entirety.
Australian jazz pianist Matt Baker has been headlining in New York, his hometown, since 2010. He also performs regularly as a sideman and / or accompanist at jazz venues such as Birdland and The Blue. Note, tours in the US and internationally, and has released 6 albums, his latest DVD “Live at Birdland.” But with his talent and love for photography and film on the rise, it looks like Mr. Baker has two successful and highly creative careers. He recently produced, directed and edited a short film documenting the reopening of Jim Caruso’s Cast Party in Birdland. Matt and his trusty camera followed the host of the iconic variety show / open mic as he prepared for the big event and documented the excitement and musical performance of the grand reopening. We were delighted 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 that the reopening of Cast Party was going to be a very special event and I thought it should be documented. In Monday’s eighteen years, host Jim Caruso has never taken a week off from Cast Party. After an eighteen month hiatus, the opening night was going to be a big party. Since Birdland is my musical home, I was very excited about the club reopening and wanted it to be my contribution to helping the club and Cast Party get back on their feet.
What has Cast Party meant to you as a musician?
Cast Party gave me a place to perform every Monday night, and a place to see and meet other artists. Birdland isn’t just any old place – on one of the world’s premier stages, the Jazz Corner of the World, and Cast Party has been a place of amazing networking opportunities. Many musicians and industry people walk through the doors every Monday evening, and it has been a huge source of work and career opportunities for me. While Cast Party is primarily aimed at singers, I’m thankful that Jim includes instrumentalists like me in the lineup as well. Playing as a trio with house bassist Steve Doyle and drummer Daniel Glass keeps my performance warm and inspires me to practice and prepare every week.
Give me a few sentences about the other movies you’ve worked on …
I’ve done a lot of independent films for musicians, singers, and actors in the past, creating demos for them, music videos, or social media content. I also have an ongoing documentary project, “Voices of the Street” for the past few years, interviewing homeless people for posting on the project’s website (www.voicesofthestreet.com). We are currently in production on a feature documentary on homelessness in New York City, which will be released soon. Outside of music, most people know me as a still photographer. Video is only about 5% of my work!
You’ve taken so many great photos – do you get a lot of satisfaction from the photography?
I get huge satisfaction from photography! In fact, it’s a similar satisfaction to what I get from music. With photography, I experience great joy when someone sees their images and realizes the beauty that they have in themselves. Sometimes they see it for the first time. The excitement they feel when they see the final edited photos is like what I feel as a performer when someone attends my concert. You make people happy, bring joy, share talents, create inspiration, and help someone believe in themselves. It is a beautiful thing.