David Matthews, the son of a Methodist minister, was born in Sonora, Kentucky on March 4, l942. He received his Bachelor of Music from the Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. Dave’s extensive musical career has led him all over the world, from leading jazz band tours in Europe, to the bandleader of James Brown’s band to being an award-winning arranger/composer to leading both of Japan’s best bands, the Manhattan Jazz Quintet and the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra.
Dave started his professional music career in the late sixties by leading a jazz dance band on tour in Germany and Italy as well as playing at various jazz clubs in Cincinnati. After settling down in New York in 1971, Dave became the arranger and bandleader for the “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown. During that time, he worked steadily as a free-lance arranger and writer for Buddy Rich, Mark Murphy, Bonnie Raitt, T-Bone Walker, Blue Mitchell, the J.B.’s, Starland Vocal Band, Stephanie Mills, Earl Klugh, Phoebe Snow, Donald Byrd, Crystal Gayle, David Sanborn and Paul Simon. Dave was the staff arranger for CTI Records from 1975 to 1978, writing, arranging and producing albums for Nina Simone, Hank Crawford, Art Farmer, Joe Farrell, Ron Carter, Idris Muhammad, Jim Hall, and George Benson.
Dave’s work can be heard in radio and television commercials such as Sunoco, Texaco, Magnavox, Champale, Welch’s, Mary Quant, Ford, NBC’s “Proud as a Peacock”, “Reach Out” for AT & T, Sheraton, 7UP, Avon, McDonald’s, Oldsmobile, Burger King, Nabisco, Clearasil, and Life Savers. Dave’s commercial for 3M Tape won a Clio Award in l975.
Dave composed several film scores including William Greaves’ film “The Fight” featuring Mohammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Andrew Davis’ “Stony Island” and “Bedtime Eyes,” a Japanese film in which he not only wrote the music, but also performed with his group, Manhattan Jazz Quintet. He orchestrated film scores for “Parallax View”, “The Stepford Wives”, “Night Moves”, “Washington D.C.: A City Out of Wilderness,” and “Space Battlecruiser Yamato”.
Dave has had great success performing and recording for the Japanese jazz audience. From 1979 to 1989, he was busy as an artist/producer/writer for Japan’s King Records. In 1984, he founded the Manhattan Jazz Quintet (MJQ) and five years later, expanded the group into the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra (MJO). Both the MJQ and MJO have toured Japan and Asia extensively as well as being the recipients of several prestigious awards such as Swing Journal’s Golden Hit Award four times and Swing Journal’s Critic’s Award. On several occasions, Swing Journal voted MJQ and MJO as the best jazz group and best big band (2002, 2003, 2004). The MJQ has recorded and released an impressive 28 albums and the MJO has recorded and released 11 albums, all in Japan. In 1998 and 1999, Dave made regular appearances as the featured artist on a Japanese television show, which has since been released on DVD as “Panasonic’s Sound Essays”. Swing Journal voted Dave as 1989’s arranger of the year. In February 1990, Dave signed an exclusive agreement as an artist, producer and arranger with Sweet Basil Inc. His frequent visits to Japan have led Dave to become fluent in the Japanese language.
In addition to his busy work schedule in both Japan and the United States, Dave arranged Simon and Garfunkel’s “Reunion Concert in Central Park,” the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra’s “Memorial Concert for John Lennon at Radio City Music Hall,” Julian Lennon’s debut album “Valotte”, Robert Plant’s “The Honeydrippers: Volume I”, Paul McCartney’s “Angry”, Frank Sinatra’s “L.A. is my Lady,” Billy Joel’s “An Innocent Man,” “Easy Money,” “Second Wind” and “Why Should I Worry.”
In 2001, The Milestone Label, part of the Fantasy Group,
began releasing Manhattan Jazz Orchestra recordings in the USA to excellent reviews.
And the tours of Japanese concert halls have continued, with the latest one being in 2015.
Dave now lives in northern Japan with his wife Michiko.