About Matt Cooper
Matt Cooper was a member of the legendary South Eugene High jazz ensemble in the 70s, whose alums include John Bishop (founder of Origin Records), Richard Smith (founder of USC’s Commercial Guitar Program), and Frank Griffith (top U.K. composer and reedman) as well as guitarists Mike Denny (University of Oregon) and Tom Hynes (Azusa Pacific University). Cooper went on to earn several degrees in classical piano, including a doctorate at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, while continuing to play jazz. His Cincinnati combo won a Downbeat magazine award for Best College Combo in the U.S. and Canada; he went on to a summer tour with the Woody Herman band (1987), and then win one of the top prizes in both the Thelonious Monk Competition and Great American Jazz Competition (1988), and release his first solo album, Introspection (1989). Besides the Herman band, he continued to rack up playing credits with other greats such as Eddie Harris, singer Nancy King, harmonica player Howard Levy, the Les Elgart, Nelson Riddle, and Blue Wisp big bands, and many others.
In 1991 Cooper returned to his native Oregon to take a teaching job at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande. He recorded a live classical piano duet CD (1998), and later an all original jazz sextet CD, Clovis (2004) which won accolades in the “Best Original Song” division of the JPF music awards. In the 90s and early 2000s Cooper traveled several times to Russia to perform innovative classical and jazz concerts in major cities of the Far East, as well as doing recitals, college concerts, and festivals in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington; in April 2016 Cooper headlined at the San Juan College Jazz Festival (New Mexico).
Cooper’s doctoral research on Duke Ellington as pianist led to the first book-length study on Duke’s piano styles, published by College Music Society in 2013 (Duke Ellington as Pianist: A Study in Styles) and led to invitations to perform in Woking, Exeter, and London, England; Portland, Oregon; and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He gave keynote presentations in Portland and Amsterdam, a sold-out concert at Reed College, and a full solo recital at the Blue Note Room of the Conservatory of Amsterdam. His work on Duke’s pianism has been hailed as “groundbreaking.”
Cooper is in high demand as a performer, sideman and adjudicator throughout the Northwest and beyond. Recently he has collaborated with saxophonist Rob Scheps (Cold Spring, NY), flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny (Centralia, WA), and vocalist Kathy Kosins (Detroit, MI), and he is slated to perform a Mozart concerto with the Grande Ronde Symphony during the 2017-18 season.