Jared Mattson is one half of the duo Mattson 2, and, as his debut album Peanut, proves, one very formidable solo act. He first came on the scene with his identical twin, Jonathan Mattson on drums, honing a sound pulled fully through bebop but also streaked with surf-rock. And both with his brother and in his own evolution as a player and songwriter, he’s been surprising and igniting listeners and audiences ever since.
The Mattsons were already playing Japan while getting their Masters of Fine Arts degrees from the University of California Irvine. Their debut recording, the EP Introducing the Mattson 2, in 2009, showed Jared working in the melodic transition of jazz guitarists like Cal Fallow and Wes Montgomery. Agar, in 2014, was another instrumental record, but that record was a full-out banshee cry and showcased a more explosive scale of exploration. After that, a pivotal collaboration with Chaz Bundick (Toro y Moi) led to Star Stuff and displayed an extraordinary marriage of Beach-Boys sharp compositional hooks with the musical muscle of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. That album peaked at number one on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart and brought the Mattson 2 a whole new level of publicity.
A different kind of milestone followed for the Mattsons when they released a full recording of John Coltrane’s masterwork A Love Supreme, in 2018. “The message of a A Love Supreme is a universal message and is meant to reach any and all people,” famed jazz writer Ashley Kahn told The Washington Post Magazine. “So the Mattson 2 are hearing that message. . .And they are hearing it in a big way, and there is a depth of sincerity and reverence, I would say, in what the Mattson 2 are doing that is unquestionable.”
In a career of novel pivots, Paradise, in 2019, showed off the duo’s newly honed pop instincts and, most notably for Jared, featured his lead vocals for the first time. Now, Jared has brought those talents and, in the tradition of Paul McCartney’s and Prince’s debut solo albums, released a solo album in that truest sense: With the exception of Joe Lyle on drums and Anthony Ferraro on bass on “She Ran Away,” and Ferraro proving keys and backing vocals on three other tracks, the guitar, bass, drum programming, and keyboard work all come from the fingertips and musical brain of Jared.
The result is a pure, fully realized pop album that manages to be not at all familiar, with songs that air on the side of restraint vs. bombast. It’s also the work of an ever-flourishing and inventive guitarist who has reimagined the use of his main instrument for music whose influences come from all over the airwaves but that add up to a sound that is entirely original.