1. Faculty

Matt Penman

Roots, Jazz, and American Music

Courses Taught

  • Jazz Bass


  • SFJAZZ Collective
  • James Farm
  • Root 70

What is your hometown?

Auckland, New Zealand

What is your favorite recording?

Guns N' Roses: Appetite for Destruction.

What are you passionate about outside of music?

Wine, food, tennis, ethics, and languages. 

Who were your major teachers?

Sharlene Penman (my mother).

What is a favorite quote that you repeatedly tell students?

“It's your job to inspire yourself and the guys in the band.”

What question do you wish students would ask sooner rather than later?

“Am I doing this for love, status, or money?” If for love of music, you've chosen something that will continue to provide you with fulfillment throughout your entire life, whereas status and money are more elusive, fleeting, and highly relative. 

What was the defining moment when you decided to pursue music as a career?

When I was 17, I realized I didn't want to study law and needed to put more work into the bass than I was putting into school. I basically home-schooled myself in one subject...

If you weren't a musician or teacher, what do you think you would be doing now?

Growing grapes, making wine. Maybe writing fiction (a story about a jazz musician who had to "give it all up.” Strung out on natural wine? Saw a jazz crime and has to go into a witness protection program? Lost his hands in a freak cable car accident? TBC...)

If you could play only three composers for the rest of your life, who would they be?

John Lennon, Milton Nascimento, and myself, I guess. (Great way to stimulate some composition—thanks...)

From a music history perspective, what year and city are most important to you?

New York, late 1950s through the ’70s.

What are your most important collaborations?

SFJAZZ Collective, Joshua Redman, and Nils Wogram.

What recordings can we hear you on?

I have two solo albums out, The Unquiet and Catch of the Day (Fresh Sound) and a third on the way. You can also hear my writing on the two James Farm albums, James Farm and City Folk (Nonesuch). As a sideman, I'm on upwards of 130 recordings, but there's also another musician called Matt who needed a nom de plume for some music he was ashamed of and he used my name, so if it sucks, it ain't me, okay?

What is your unrealized project?

Still highly unrealized even in my mind, but would probably include a mountain of vintage synths and a duduk or two...