WATCH: NJ trumpet player goes solo with soul
Carly Q. Romalino, Courier-Post Published 2:47 p.m. ET June 8, 2017 | Updated 3:27 p.m. ET Sept. 29, 2017
Matt Cappy's Haddon Heights rehearsal room could barely contain the soulful grooves and jazz jams pumped out by the sound system.
The Collingswood trumpet player pushed the volume a tick higher with every track playing on his first album due to release this month.
Lit by a single bulb in a lamp made from an old trumpet, Cappy, 43, swayed, bobbing his head to the thick bass lines, not noticing his fingers played along with his trumpet solos on the track.
The Berlin Township native began playing professionally nearly two decades ago, backing super stars like Jill Scott and Jay-Z.
Now it's Cappy's turn out front.
His first album, "Church and State," releases June 16, days before he heads out on a summer tour playing with Jill Scott.
"I want people's heads moving, not just sitting there watching me playing 1,000 notes," Cappy said.
In The Gradwell House rehearsal space — a small, gray-painted room with a lamp, keyboard and not-yet assembled drum kit — his music blared. His lips moved, mouthing his parts of the melody.
The record — much like this career — "is about the groove," he said.
"I put a lot of years into this record," Cappy explained.
The album's final track — titled "The Last One'' — was the first song he wrote. That was a decade ago, he noted, yelling over the song as it played.
His professional career began a decade before that, he said.
"We have great musicians in this area. The cover band scene is amazing. And the average wedding band is really good. But to punch through and have a national artist. We haven't done that yet."
Hooking up with Scott in the late 1990s through Philly's jazz clubs and hip-hop funk scene catapulted his career. Scott affectionately nicknamed her band Fatback Taffy, Cappy said.
A year after he played on Scott's first album "Who is Jill Scott?," she and Fatback Taffy were playing Wells Fargo Center-sized sports arenas. In 2002, he was part of her live album that went gold.
"I owe everything to Jill Scott," he said. "I was with her literally for 10 years straight."
Their first summer show together is June 23 in Virginia.
Since, he's played on Michael Jackson's double platinum-selling "Butterfly" record, and on recordings for other platinum-selling artists, like Musiq Soulchild.
Cappy — GRAMMY's Philadelphia chapter board governor since 2003 — has performed with The Roots, Mos Def, Common, Aretha Franklin, The O-Jays, The Moody Blues and Tony Bennett, and recorded with Earth, Wind and Fire, Marvin Sapp, and Faith Evans. And that's the short list.
In February, DJ Jazzy Jeff invited Cappy and tons of other highly-regarded musicians and artists to his Delaware studio to record "Chasing Goosebumps," an album curated from top to bottom in seven days. Cappy plays on a half-dozen tracks, recording at Jeff's studio through the night to meet the deadline.
Cappy's album's title track "Church and State" was recorded at the same studio.
Through marathon globe treks and arena performances, Cappy still remembers his first performances — with Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School's band in Berlin.
"The percentage of kids in band in this blue-collar town," he remembered.
"I would go to my sister's concerts, and the whole town showed up for the band. I was hooked. I wanted to be in it as soon as I could."
He knew early — about fourth grade — the jazz band is where he belonged.
"He always stood out," his fourth grade band director Bill Garton told the Courier-Post
"He had fire in his eyes. He just wanted to be great from fourth grade on."
Cappy played under Garton's direction in middle schools, then again at Overbrook High School. Cappy — a former member of Berlin-based South Jersey String Band — also learned saxophone .
Garton, a retired professor at University of the Arts, oversaw Cappy's student-teaching rotation at Berlin Borough schools.
Cappy continues to give lessons to South Jersey student musicians.
Garton will be in the audience Thursday at 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia for Cappy's album release concert. "He's never forgotten his roots," Garton said.
"As a teacher, you really do appreciate that. You start the kids off with everything you got, then you wait and see."
Cappy's Camden County roots get a nod on the record.
The track "Rose Lane," an Afro-beat-style song already played on London radio stations, is a nod to the Berlin Township street where he grew up — North Rose Lane, he said.
"Eight Five Six" — a reference to South Jersey's area code — shows how his jazz playing has matured since Eisenhower and Overbrook.
"Sacramento," written in California, is a shout out to Overbrook High School, when teenage Cappy jammed to Power 99 and Stevie Wonder.
Like the song, Overbrook is "soulful, and a mix of all people," he explained.
"I've been in the music business this long. I've been part of big ships.I 'm thinking of myself like a start-up business," he said.
"It's really exciting, and it's a little scary. ... But what I learned from the Jill Scott model — you need to make great music and back it up live."
Carly Q. Romalino; (856) 486-2476; firstname.lastname@example.org
HOW TO LISTEN:
Find Matt Cappy's debut album "Church and State" on iTunes and Amazon.com starting June 16. For more on the musician visit www.mattcappy.com