Remembering Matthew: Gino Robair

The July 2003 issue of the Transbay Creative Music Calendar was called “Remembering Matthew” and included brief essays/remembrances by some of the creative improvisers who played with Matthew over the years. Here is Gino Robair‘s contribution.


An open letter to Matthew Sperry

Hey Matthew,
Where to begin? Your sense of humor. You loved to remind me of how we first met -I brazenly introduced myself to you at the Seattle festival-and, of course, I didn’t remember you the next time we met. I’m here to tell you that this never happened again!

It didn’t take long for me to find a kindred spirit in you: musically, personally, socially. I soon learned we had many things in common: gamelan, improvisation, star sign, foods, etc. A true Scorpio, you carried a sense of mystery — not in any threatening way — but you always had a surprise up your sleeve.

Although we knew each other for years, I felt I was forever getting to know you: layer upon interesting layer removed, and yet there were more layers. During our last private chat, merely two weeks or so ago, you described your lunchtime date with Stacia and Lila at the Berkeley Marina as “romantic,” which I thought was beautiful.

During this last 15-minute chat-each of us stealing a break from work to stand on the sidewalk under the shade of some trees-you and I quickly caught up on the events since our recent session with Shiurba, Perkis, Djll, and Wolfgang Fuchs. I handed you the CD-R of the session, hoping you would be as thrilled about it as I was. But how could you be? Part of my excitement was how incredible you sounded in the session.

You told me about the new band you were in with Angela, John, and Jenya; the quartet version of Plonsey’s Daniel Popsicle; and how you enjoyed rehearsing. But what really blew my mind, was your interest in exploring the craft of songwriting — regular songs. You were inspired by the American Idol show, I think you said. And all those songs that were flowing out of you at Leap Frog seem to have awakened a creative part of you that I truly looked forward to hearing. You were thrilled about the royalty potential of your songwriting, and I was forced to teasingly warn you not to quit your day job.

I’m not sure I ever confessed how excited I was when you first told me you were thinking of moving to Oakland. Immediately, I was scheming to book the two of us on a million gigs and sessions. I admit I was greedy: when you moved here, I felt like a kid whose best friend was spending the night.

But how busy we both became, as we dealt with the complexities of balancing family life with a musical career. Sometimes we didn’t see each other for weeks, only to find ourselves together on the bandstand and quickly catching up before playing. But I thought no hurry: you’ll always be here. You’ll always be my first-call bassist. We’ll grow old together on the bandstand.

Those millions of gigs and sessions — a few of them really happened, and damn I feel lucky about it. I feel so proud about our recordings. Everyone you played with looked forward to doing so again: Gail Brand, Anthony Braxton, John Butcher, Tom Waits, and all of your other musical brothers and sisters around the planet.

We played as a team, and you were never afraid to play the anti-bassist role to my anti-drummer role, inspiring me to go further out. We shared a musical territory when we improvised together, and at the best of times we were one voice. Remember our concert at the Luggage Store with John Butcher?

Your level of musicianship never ceased to amaze me, but I never had the chance to experience the many sides of your playing. It seemed like you could do anything you set your mind to. Learn about MIDI from the ground up so you could apply for a job next week? No problem.

Our last meeting on stage was so informal. I held the curtain as you and Garth carried your stuff on stage. We teased each other about who knows what for a moment before the show. After the show, you reintroduced me to an old friend, then disappeared into the night to return to your family before I could really say goodbye. Had I known…

You left a big hole in the scene, but in our hearts you will always remain. Your strong, warm hug and big smile — I’m going to miss them. Come back and visit anytime.
I love you.