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.