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One of the stalwart band of jazz accordionists. Mathews caught the jazz bug listening to broadcasts of American Armed Force Radio after World War Two. Working with the only instrument he knew, he started imitating solos Harry James, Coleman Hawkins, and others on his accordion. He was good enough to get work in nightclubs and other venues, and within a few years, was touring throughout Europe.
In 1952, he moved to the U.S., where he supplemented his club work with appearances on television variety shows such as Garry Moore's, Jack Paar's, and Arthur Godfrey's. George Wein signed him to appear at several of the early Newport Jazz Festivals. He also earned an endorsement contract from the Hohner musical instrument company, which designed a special accordion for him.
Mathews also experimented as an arranger. One of the few available samples of this work is the rare jazz album on Elektra (better none for its folk releases), Four French Horns Plus Rhythm, which features four of the leading jazz French horn players (bet you didn't think there WERE four of them) playing with Mathews on jazz standards such as "On the Alamo" and "Come Rain or Come Shine."
Toward the end of the 1950s, Mathews formed the New York Jazz Quartet with Herbie Mann on flute, Joe Puma on guitar, and Whitey Mitchell on bass. The group recorded four albums between 1957 and 1960.
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