Atla and Matt DeChamplain have such consuming love for jazz it’s fitting that their love follows suit. The pair met in a Connecticut high school jazz combo, and has been inseparable since— they attended the University of Toledo together and then set off on a shared music career.
This all makes the married couple’s return for Friday’s show at the University Church special. The married couple originally came to Toledo for its history. Atla wanted to be taught by legendary UT vocalist/teacher Jon Hendricks. Matt, who loves stride piano, was excited to walk in pianist Art Tatum’s footsteps.
“As soon as we got to Toledo, he said ‘Art Tatum’s house is here, let’s go,’” Atla recalls. “We hadn’t even unpacked our things.”
Living the dream
The two met in high school, but Atla’s love of jazz goes back to childhood when her family attended the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Festival.
“They had music from morning to night,” she says. “It was my introduction to jazz and a really great way to start… My day was filled with jazz from the first note of the day to the last note of the evening. It was amazing.”
Her passion guided her through a difficult beginning.
“I was really tone deaf,” she confides. “My mom was not a very good singer. I remember her saying ‘I think you got your voice from my side of the family,’ which meant that you have to sing very softly… [but] I always wanted to be a singer and pestered my parents until they got me voice lessons.”
Loving a great pianist
In high school, Alta met Matt. His jazz education came courtesy of a player piano bought by his grandparents in his youth. The piano sharpened his jazz ear, even though he didn’t learn to read music for years. Matt’s talent caught Atla’s attention, who would convince him to stay after school and help her study music. Alone time, at last.
“He’s a year older and his father is a great guitarist; it just seemed like music was coming out of his pores and I wanted to be around him,” she says. “So we started singing songs together. I used to sing songs about how I secretly loved him. He was 16, so he had no idea.”
In February, the couple released their debut album together, Pause, culled from their repertoire the last five years.
“We’re already talking about our next album which is going to be a tribute to Jon Hendricks,” says Atla. “Before I met him at eighteen, I had every one of his albums. He’s so humble and charismatic you almost forget how incredibly talented he is. So I definitely want to do an album that would help me say thanks for everything he’s done.”
7:30pm Friday, December 18
University Church, 4747 Hill Ave.