Guitar Improvisation

Matt Borghi – Guitar Improviser

Matt  Borghi is many things: sound artist, music composer, writer, but above all he’s a musical improviser, and usually with a guitar in traditional and non-traditional means.

Like the great traditions of jazz, classical before cadenzas were locked down on paper, and most other secular musical traditions, Matt prefers to make up as he goes along, listening and collaborating in real-time. Starting with a melody or basic musical idea, he plants the musical seed and lets the work grow organically to its natural conclusion.

Matt came to music improvisation early on, as an outgrowth of exploring psychedelic music and the drawn out jams of the Grateful Dead, and the longer soundscape stylings of Pink Floyd. These groups led to an exploration of jazz, specifically John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey and Thelonius Monk. The discovery of jazz was both profound and significant because the sounds and the rhythms were so different, so original and fresh. The purity of Coltrane’s tone and ambiance of Mile’s Davis’ electric period, specifically In a Silent Way, as well as Pink Floyd’s Echoes translated into Matt going to find his own musical territory – musical improvisation.

Matt Borghi Guitar Laptop Ambient

Of interest, specifically to Matt’s growth as an improviser, was the influence the band Phish had on him. While compositionally, Matt enjoyed Phish, it was their approach to improvisation, live performance and the constant unfolding based around basic structures that had Matt pushing the boundaries of improvisation and live music composition. Phish, like many others groups and artists borrowed from jazz structures, and added it to a rock idiom, but unlike other groups they pushed for the constant exploration and unfolding of the composition, live and in real time.

While Matt was developing the craft of music improvisation various other musical endeavors were happening in his life, including his 2000 debut release, For Running Time. This was a turning point, because the recording consisted of a lot of guitar improvisation and experimentation, but also moved Matt to start undertaking solo performances or performances where he would get together with other musicians and improvise live. The early live music improvisations would include some pre-recorded music beds as a safety net, of sorts, but after a short period those were abandoned and Matt and the musicians he worked with lived and died with their musical improvisations, or to quote Bela Fleck and The Flecktones 1996 live album, their Live Art.

Matt Borghi Playing Prepared Guitar

Matt has continued in this vein for much of the last decade with various iterations of the Matt Borghi Ensemble, KOSIK, Olagra and most recently The Elevator Conspiracy and other pick-up bands that’s he performed with. Sometimes the improvisations are a lead guitar style in the vein of Jerry Garcia or Grant Green, while at other times the guitar improvisations are very ambient and textural, ala Fennesz, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, or My Bloody Valentine, but in either case always distinctly Matt Borghi.

Matt has this to say about improvised music:

“For me, personally, there’s no purer kind of creativity than that of the spontaneous creation of something, and for me that something is creating music on the fly – improvisation. Some will say that it’s a lazy or unfocused way of doing music, but I would say that this approach gives you the most freedom that you can have as a musician and artist.

There’s nothing more exhilarating (and scary) than going out on a stage with only a few musical ideas, striking the first few notes and launching into a live musical exploration. This is a transcendental process and experience that you’re sharing not just with the audience, but also with the band – you’re bonding and creating a beautiful and profound musical experience.

Music improvisation is almost all craft. You’re writing a sonic story in real time and trying to engage your listeners, your audience, and yourselves. With that story comes the story arc, you build up, you create tension, you release, you ascend, you resolve, you come down and the listener is taking this ride with you. It’s a beautiful experience if you’ve ever had the chance to experience it, if not seek it out, you’ll be glad you did it; it changes you as a listener and a musician.”

This page is meant to be a beacon on the web calling out to all other music improvisers and improvised music aficionados and a improvised music resume, of sorts. Get in touch if you’re coming through Michigan or the Midwest, or looking for musical improvisers anywhere on the globe.

Matt Borghi Improvised Guitar

Matt’s always looking for opportunities to play with other improvisers and always looking for other artists to put shows/tours together with that feature improvised music.

Featured Music


Matt Borghi Guitar Improviser

Musical Influences:

The Grateful Dead Phish Medeski, Martin & Wood Thelonius Monk Terry Riley Yo La Tengo
Jerry Garcia John Coltrane John Scofield Tortoise Dave Matthews Band Blues Traveler
Esbjorn Svensson   Trio – E.S.T. Pink Floyd The Mahavishnu Orchestra Keith Jarrett La Monte Young God Speed! You Black Emperor
Dave Liebman Jeff Beck Grant Green Curtis Mayfield The Allman Brothers Band Gabriela Montero