I just received word that Mat Domber, who founded Arbors Records in 1989, died peacefully this morning — with his beloved wife Rachel at his side.  Mat had been ill for some time, but you hardly knew it: when I last saw him, at a Harry Allen Monday night function at Feinstein’s last June, he was cheerful, amused, and gracious as ever.

When the history of any art form is written, it invariably concentrates on the artists who are seen as the prime movers — and logically so.  But artists need patrons and friends and people who help them communicate their vision.  Mat Domber was a stellar example.  Other jazz fans delight in the music; some throw parties for their friends, or concerts.

Mat and Rachel decided that the music they loved wasn’t getting recorded . . . and thus he put his business acumen and his musical taste into play — at first, relying on Rick Fay and Dan Barrett for musical guidance, but eventually building up a roster of players and singers he knew were first-rate.  If you go to your CD shelves at this moment, chances are some of the most gratifying discs there are on the Arbors label.

I list some of the players who might otherwise have had fewer chances to express themselves: Rebecca Kilgore, Ruby Braff, Ralph Sutton, Dick Hyman, Kenny Davern, John Sheridan, Scott Robinson, Jon-Erik Kellso, Duke Heitger, George Masso, Bob Wilber, Ehud Asherie, Johnny Varro, Dan Block, Marty Grosz, Eddie Erickson, Jackie Coon, Warren Vache, Nicki Parrott, Rossano Sportiello, Peter Ecklund, Bucky Pizzarelli, Aaron Weinstein, Harry Allen, Bob Haggart, John Bunch, Derek Smith, Keith Ingham, Ellis Larkins, Bobby Gordon, Ken Peplowski, Randy Sandke, Randy Reinhart, Joel Helleny, Howard Alden, Joe Wilder, Jerry Jerome, Flip Phillips . . . you can add other names as well.

Mat was a delight to be with — someone who enjoyed the company of the musicians after the session almost as much as he enjoyed the sessions.  And he made Arbors parties and festivals and happenings for all of us to enjoy.

There will be other things to say about Mat, but I will end this by saying that Ruby Braff and Kenny Davern, two of the most exacting men in the world of jazz, relied on him.  He will be missed.  JAZZ LIVES sends its deepest sympathy to Rachel and the people who loved Mat Domber.

May your happiness increase.  

19 responses to “A FEW WORDS FOR MAT DOMBER

  1. Shame when the chroniclers leave us.

  2. Thomas P. Hustad

    Ruby Braff felt that he owed the latter years of career to the complete independence that Mat offered for the Arbors Records sessions. Mat gave me the privilege of writing notes for several of his releases. In our occasional meetings we discussed many things. The one that I think should be remembered is simple. I asked him what he enjoyed the most, and he quickly described his excitement in observing the creative process of fine musicians develop in both studio and live performance situations. Ruby, for his part, also praised Rachel’s cookies. Mat will be missed by so very many people who owe a considerable number of their own smiles to the work that Mat and Rachel championed.

  3. R.I.P.

  4. Very sad news indeed.

  5. Many thanks to both Mat and Rachel for bringing me many hours of jazz pleasure. When I think of what I would not have heard, except for Mat, I am more than indebted to him.

  6. One of the good guys in this business.

    From: The Well-Tempered Ear Reply-To: JAZZ LIVES Date: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 8:02 PM To: Jim Eigo Subject: [New post] A FEW WORDS FOR MAT DOMBER

    WordPress.com jazzlives posted: “I just received word that Mat Domber, who founded Arbors Records in 1989, died peacefully this morning — with his beloved wife Rachel at his side. Mat had been ill for some time, but you hardly knew it: when I last saw him, at a Harry Allen Monday nigh”

  7. So sorry to learn this news. Mat Domber was truly one of the decent, honest good guys in a crazy business.

  8. Sad news. Thank you for everything, Mat — you brought so much joy and beauty to the world.

  9. Sad news indeed. He had an outstanding track record for excellence with numerous winners in the Arbors catalogue. He will be greatly missed. My condolences to the family.

  10. Despite all odds, Mat Domber has always been a valiant fighter. Whether for his Seaboard Arbors real estate company, the miraculous Arbors Records, the stellar extended family of musicians and fans he’s united together – his own family and ultimately, his own life — no one could have a better advocate and friend. No one could be more generous – on so many levels – to so many people and causes.
    An interview Mat did with Mark Weber when he’d been visiting the Daverns in New Mexico is worth checking out. Mark comments “Mat is probably where the joke originated: How do you make a million dollars in jazz? Start with two million ! But, we’ll ask him what the business is like and how he keeps doing what he does. Money well spent ”

    Getting to know Mat, Rachel and their invaluable Claudia Florczck is one of the greatest blessings of my life. I couldn’t be more honored and grateful to be included in their roster of artists. Indeed a lifeline. And I also cherish the memory of generously shared opera tickets, pastrami, chopped liver, peking duck and (occasional) delectable delvings into trafe.

  11. I can’t think of anyone who has done more for jazz in the last 20 years.

  12. Bobby & Sue Gordon

    So sorry to hear of this news today. Thank you Mat for recording me….I am indebted to you and Rachel. We had some wonderful times. God bless you Rachel……you are in our thoughts Bobby Gordon and Sue.

  13. Randall Kremer, Smithsonian Institution

    Matt Domber was a wonderful man, whose passion for jazz touched the lives of countless people across the world. His support for the Smithsonian Jazz Cafe made it possible for us to bring some of the most important names in jazz to appreciative Washington, DC audiences. If not for Matt, and his wife Rachel, most of these individuals would never have appeared at the Smithsonian. Although he is gone, his legacy will live on the in hearts of his family and friends and through the music he produced. So long, good friend.

  14. Amen! the roster of his Arbors artists is spectacular by itself. Always a nice guy – I had much discussion with Mat about the Statesmen – especially the year we had them at our Sacramento Festival. Not many like him in our Jazz world – R.I.P.

  15. Adam Blackburn

    Warm wishes to Rachel and Mat’s family. He gave me my first break as an engineer and introduced me to the most amazing people and music. Blessings to all in the Arbors family.

  16. petervacher@onetel.com


    Your words were apposite and to the point. Thank you. I was very sorry to hear of Mat’s death. I had attended several of his Clearwater parties and also been included in some of the activities of the Staesmen of Jazz when they played for the Los Angeles Classic jazz festival. He was always very cordial to me, as yet another jazz writer-cum-hanger-on, and generous too. We enthusiasts have a lot to thank him for, notably the wonderful support he gave to Ruby Braff with his many recordings he made for Arbors. Mat radiated a kind of jazz contentment that was very attractive, even if he did tend to wear some of the most outlandish trousers i’ve ever seen! A great man in every way. My sincer condolences to rachel and their family.

    Peter Vacher (Jazz UK & Jazzwise, london)

  17. Pingback: Around The Jazz Internet: Sept. 28, 2012 | Jazz24

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