Solid body electric

Guitarist and former Chicoan Matt Baldoni’s career takes off

EXPECTING TO FLY <br>By the time you read this, guitarist Matt Baldoni will probably be just returning from Europe and the Middle East, where he was to have performed with acclaimed smooth-jazz musician Keiko Matsui.

By the time you read this, guitarist Matt Baldoni will probably be just returning from Europe and the Middle East, where he was to have performed with acclaimed smooth-jazz musician Keiko Matsui.

Courtesy Of Matt Baldoni

It’s Monday, July 14, and Matt Baldoni’s back in town. Sitting on my couch, in fact.

A former Chicoan now living in the L.A. area, the guitarist is here for what’s becoming his annual week-long summer stopover to teach and perform at Chico State’s Ethos Music Camp.

Baldoni tells me he arrived in Chico Sunday night on the heels of his packed Las Vegas performances with smooth-jazzer sax-man Jeff Kashiwa at Whiskey Beach, a large outdoor poolside amphitheater devoted to smooth jazz, a popular and growing genre and one that Baldoni is getting more and more involved in.

Baldoni’s Ethos week has him coaching two student ensembles at the camp every morning and teaching advanced-guitar students in the afternoons. Mid-week sees him headlining (like last year) the Ethos evening concert; other teachers—Warren Haskell, Dave Elke, Tobin Roye, Bruce MacMillan—perform that evening as well. The theme of Baldoni’s performance, he tells me, is “West Coast Guitarists"—his idols and current influences. His set will include the music of Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, Robben Ford, Norman Brown and Pat Metheny.

Baldoni has come to Ethos this year as a wiser, more seasoned musician wanting to share his knowledge of the music world with students. Networking, press kits, answering ads, taking auditions, professional behavior on a gig—these are some of the practical issues Baldoni wants to address with Ethos students, instead of focusing on “chops, scales, and theory.”

His time spent as musical director of Fox’s NFL Live show and teaching at two of the most prestigious guitar programs in the world, those of USC and MI (Musicians Institute), as well as plenty of on-the-job training—gigs and/or session work with Kashiwa, smooth-jazz keyboardist Greg Karukas, keyboardist Freddie Ravel (musical director for Al Jarreau and Earth, Wind and Fire), Jeff Lorber, Brian Bromberg, Keb’ Mo, Run-DMC, O-Town, etc.—give him much to talk about with aspiring musicians.

I’ve heard the story of one of his recent successes. Baldoni, whose guitar roots are in heavy metal, got to play for one of his childhood idols, Ozzy Osbourne. He was asked, along with 5-year-old whiz-kid drummer Cole Marcus (who won the America’s Most Talented Kids TV competition when he played an Ozzy song), to be a regular guest on the forthcoming new live talk show, The Sharon Osbourne Show. He and Marcus got to record the Ozzy Osbourne song “Crazy Train” for the show, with Ozzy himself listening. Baldoni was thrilled!

Right after the Ethos Camp comes to a close, Baldoni will jet off for Finland. He is scheduled to play with jazz pianist Keiko Matsui (, with whom he has toured the Midwest and back east recently, at the Pori Jazz Festival on July 22, and then they perform in Istanbul, Turkey, on July 23. Of Matsui, he has this to say: “She’s a musical genius and a total doll!”

He makes the point that he has many people to thank for his growing success in the music business, among them sponsors Gibson, Levy’s Leather, Roland, GHS Strings (the realities of the biz) and the many fine musicians he’s worked with, especially L.A.-based guitarist Steve Lukather (, Baldoni’s “most powerful influence” and now a close, trusted friend: “I stand in awe of that man.”

Matt Baldoni receives so much from his rich experience performing and teaching in Southern California (and beyond), he seems only too happy to give back to those in his old stomping grounds. He takes much pride in bringing the urban sounds and knowledge he has acquired down south back to students, audience members and friends in Chico. He’s excited about his growing involvement in smooth jazz. He sees it as “a West Coast version—an extension—of fusion” that “allows you to do things you can’t do in straight-ahead jazz,” like “use overdrive on your guitar.” In that genre, Baldoni sees himself “in the embryonic stages of a solo career.”

Keep track of Matt Baldoni’s progress at and