Kansas City native Will Matthews has been playing the guitar since age thirteen. By age fifteen Matthews began playing in church and performing in R&B bands, taking regional tours during the summer months when school was not in session. During these formative years, Matthews started listening to all the great pioneers of the jazz guitar, from Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery, and George Benson to Grant Green, Pat Martino, and others. By age eighteen Matthews was traveling and touring with groups internationally and making a career in the music business. During the 1970s–80s Matthews was performing with such notable artists as Arthur Prysock, Carmel Jones, Jimmy Witherspoon, Claude “Fiddler” Williams, Jay McShann, Queen Bey, Luqman Hamza, Ahmad Alaadeen, The Bloodstones, and The New Breed Orchestra, while in the 1990’s he also worked with Freda Payne, Carmen Bradford, Charles Earland, Ronnell Bright and others.
In 1996 Matthews joined The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra™ under the direction of former Basie band lead trombonist Grover Mitchell, to fill the coveted chair of the late legendary guitarist and composer, Freddie Green, who performed with the Orchestra for over fifty years.
“It was immediately obvious that he was something special. I could see the way he approached the guitar that he was a master of the instrument.”— Grover Mitchell (a former leader of the Legendary Count Basie Orchestra)
Matthews has played on many studio and live recordings with the Orchestra, including two “Grammy Winning” recordings, ‘Live at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild’ in 1997, and ‘Count Plays Duke’ in 1999, as well as the “Grammy Nominated” recording titled ‘Swing Shift’ in 2000. The guitarist has performed at every major jazz festival, concert hall, theatre and night club in the world, touring across Asia, Africa and Europe, as well as the rare honor of performing at the Royal Palace in Bangkok, Thailand for King Bhumibol in 1996. He has also performed for President William J. Clinton’s second inaugural in Washington, DC 1997. Matthews has also had the honor of performing for First Lady Michelle Obama at a Campaign Fundraiser for President Barack Obama in Kansas City, Missouri at the American Jazz Museum in March 2012.
Since joining the Orchestra, Matthews has performed with a who’s who list of artists such as the late Joe Williams, Frank Foster, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Frank Wess, Benny Powell, Curtis Fuller, Benny Carter, Hank Jones, Milt Jackson, Lou Donaldson, Kenny Burrell, George Benson, Rufus Reid, Jimmy Cobb, Jon Hendricks, Ernie Andrews, Johnny Mathis, Nancy Wilson, Mary Stallings, Marlena Shaw, Patti Austin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ledisi, Dianne Reeves, Nnenna Freelon, Vanessa Rubin, Rosemary Clooney, Carla Cook, Dorothy Donegan, Diane Schuur, Kurt Elling, Geri Allen, Ledisi, Chick Corea, John Faddis, Wynton Marsalis, Gary Bartz, Regina Carter, Marcus Roberts, Llew Matthews, Norman Simmons, Joey DeFrancesco, Tom Scott, John Pizzarelli, Tito Puente, Neal Hefti, and many others.
The guitarist released his debut CD, Will Matthews “Solo” in November 2000, and his second cd project titled ‘Count On Swingin’ was released in 2009 featuring legendary Organist Mel Rhyne, from the original Wes Montgomery Trio, along with former Art Blakey Jazz Messengers member, Bobby Watson, and Indianapolis drummer Kenny Phelps.
Matthews was also one of several guest artists featured in a 2010 Documentary film broadcast on the PBS network titled From Separate To Equal The Creation of Truman Medical Center that also featured a song composed by the guitarist titled Mikayla’s Song, from his Count On Swingin’ project. The guitarist also performed a song in the Kevin Willmott film titled 'Jayhawker' with vocalist/actress Queen Bey.
When not touring with The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra™, Matthews performs with his B-3 Organ Project and the Saturday Night Trio. Official Artist Endorsements include D’Angelico Guitars (by Hidesato Shiino of Japan) and D’Addario Strings.
“Freddie Green was our long time guitarist (over 50 years) and he in fact pretty much invented the rhythm guitar style in this band and probably influenced (including Will) all Big Band Rhythm Guitarist that followed. But Will has something extra to add, he is a wonderful soloist.”— Grover Mitchell (a former leader of the Legendary Count Basie Orchestra)