The 7th annual Matthew Sperry Memorial Festival happens this week. This is a gathering of local musicians from free improv circles, plus special guests from out of town (trombonist Gail Brand from the U.K., in this case). All proceeds go to Matthew’s memorial fund, which helps support the wife and daughter he left behind — which is why the prices are set the way they are.
Details are available at (and were cribbed from) matthewsperry.org. The shows are:
* Tuesday June 2 | 8pm | $6 – $100 sliding scale (pay what you want within that range)
Studio 1510, 1510 8th Street, Oakland
Trio with Fred Frith and Jason Hoopes, and duo with Gail Brand (UK)
* Thursday June 4 | 8pm | $6 – $100 sliding scale
Luggage Store Gallery, 1007 Market Street, San Francisco
Co-presented by Full Moon Concerts
Orchesperry and Treasure Mouth — [the latter being a kind of improv karaoke with singers reacting to lyrics handed them on the spot… click here to get to some sound samples.]
* Friday, June 5 | 8pm | $15
Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley
Gail Brand: Solo, duos, trios, quartets, quintets and sextets with: Gino Robair, Morgan Guberman, John Shiurba, Tim Perkis and Tom Djll
… To repeat the tale: Matthew was killed in a traffic accident in 2003, when his bicycle was hit by a car. The incident was a shock to the local music community, especially given how young Matthew was, and how well his life was going. He’d gotten work with Tom Waits, and he was in the band for the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. And he had a 2-year-old daughter to treasure.
I didn’t know Matthew personally. Probably never introduced myself to him at any point. But I got to see him play multiple times. His acoustic bass was augmented with a fifth string, clearly a homemade addition, with a tuning peg several inches above the others. He was prolific when it came to live shows with varying ensembles, but he left behind relatively few recordings, some of which have only been surfacing in recent years. The Sonarchy album that was reviewed here would be one example, and John Shiurba released a CDR series to benefit Matthew’s family.
As I write this, I’m home after a long day trip with my own children, one of whom is almost exactly the age of Matthew’s daughter, and I reflect again on how lucky I’ve been in this life. I’m looking forward to seeing at least one of the shows this coming week — but if I miss them all in order to spend time with my family, I’m sure Matthew would understand.