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Jandek concert sure to be musical adventure for musicians, audience

Houston-based Jandek to perform Saturday at Minnesota State Mankato.

Tanner Kent, Mankato Free Press, 10-18-2012

Craig Matarrese has been playing the bass for 30 years. But he’s never played like this. On Saturday, the most mysterious per­sona in all of contempo­rary music — the man colloquially known as Jandek — will perform at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Matarrese and three other regional musicians have been hand-picked to join the Houston-based musi­cian on stage. And even though the Minnesota State Mankato philosophy instructor isn’t craven to a bit of free-form musicianship — he does, after all, play in a jazz quartet — his next gig will be the most challenging yet.

“I’m sort of a musical adven­turer,” he said. “I feel like, as a musician, I should do anything that will force me to grow as a player.”

In the weeks leading up to the performance, Matarrese has been told little about what to expect. Everything that has been relayed to him from the notoriously reclusive per­former has been indirect and vague — except for one speci­fication.

Jandek requested that Matarrese play a four-string, fretless bass — a somewhat unusual choice that has forced Matarrese to begin exploring new ways of playing his instrument. To prepare for the show, Matarrese said he’s working on microtonal intonations and “ psycho- acoustic paradoxes” ( that is, descending and ascending notes that, when played together, trick the mind into hearing a note that is not there).

“This is why I’m so grateful,” Matarrese said. “I’ve been playing bass for 30 years and it’s not very often that I come up with an entirely new technique. It pushes me as a player and lets the musical world show itself to me in a new way.”

Since his arrival on the music scene in 1978, Jandek has adhered to a strict policy of anonymity. He has granted only two interviews, and none in more than a decade. Even though he’s released more than 60 albums through a label called Corwood Industries ( to which fans must write if they want to purchase his CDs), Jandek didn’t play his first live show until 2004 in Glasgow, Scotland.

He rarely, if ever, speaks during his live performances and each is different. Some performances have found Jandek playing guitar, others playing the piano.

Sometimes he performs alone, other times he requests a handful of local musicians to join.

Jandek plays only a handful of shows each year all over the world. His decision to play in Mankato is rooted in the efforts of KMSU’s Shufflefunction morning. Hosts Shelley Pierce and Tim Lind are longtime fans who have corresponded with Jandek for more than a decade.

“We’re so excited to have this happen in our own backyard and have people experience this,” Lind said.

Jandek’s music may not be for everybody. But it is for everybody who likes to be challenged by music.

His music alternates between deeply poetic, melodic folk and blues, haunting instrumentals and cacophonous mixtures of banging, wailing and electrified instruments. One album features nothing but piano work. In the early 2000s, three of his releases were nothing but spokenword songs with no accompaniment. Some releases are sparse and quiet; others are loud, electric and crazed.

His live performances are equally unstructured and unpredictable.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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