Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #21 – Moppa Elliott

Another installment of the recurring “Sound It Out: 20 Questions” feature on, with an artist answering a survey inspired by the famous Proust Questionnaire…

Matthew Thomas Elliott – Moppa – was born in 1978 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and raised by music-loving college teachers. After starting on electric bass guitar, he fixed up his dad’s old acoustic double-bass as a teenager, eventually taking private lessons and going to Oberlin, majoring in both biology and jazz bass performance. He moved to New York City with the turn of the century and soon formed Mostly Other People Do the Killing, a band as playful as it is virtuosic, with the credo that “jazz is still alive and vibrant, but it can and should be fun, engaging and thoroughly contemporary.” MOPDtK – with trumpeter Peter Evans, saxophonist John Irabagon, drummer Kevin Shea and, by 2013, pianist Ron Stabinsky – has released a series of albums via Moppa’s Hot Cup label, incorporating that sense of fun and irony into whatever they do, whether it’s presenting free-bop originals or exploring the sound worlds of past styles. The band has applied itself to early, hot jazz tropes and even those of fusion; most polemically, MOPDtK released Blue, a note-by-note re-creation of Miles Davis’s ever-hallowed Kind of Blue. It was work like this that led The Atlantic to say the band had the air of “court jesters,” using light-hearted humor to make serious points about interpretation, improvisation and the nature of jazz.

Moppa has also released an album of solo bass (Still, Up in the Air), and his label has put out an album of Stabinsky’s solo piano, as well as discs by pianist Danny Fox and guitarist John Lundbom. Last year, MOPDtK released Paint, its first album in trio guise, with Moppa alongside Stabinsky and Shea. Featuring such rollicking, hook-laden Moppa originals as “Yellow House” and a cover of Duke Ellington’s “Blue Goose,” Paint was called “one of the best trio albums of the year” by All About Jazz. The DownBeat review said: “While the new piano-trio version of MOPDtK is missing the high-octane wackiness of the original lineup, the stronger spotlight on Moppa Elliot’s compositions pays dividends. His warping of traditional elements creates ideal vehicles for elastic pianist Ron Stabinsky.” Moppa and MOPDtK, in its trio incarnation, make their debut in the Sound It Out series as part of a double-bill on April 21, 2018, performing music from Paint and more. — BB

  1. What was the first jazz album you fell in love with and stayed in love with?

We Get Requests by Oscar Peterson.

  1. What do you think is one of the most overrated jazz albums ever?

Blues and the Abstract Truth by Oliver Nelson.

  1. What’s one of your all-time favorite non-jazz albums?

Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys.

  1. What’s the last album you listened to from beginning to end – and did you like it?

Dr. Quixotic’s Traveling Exotics by Jon Irabagon – loved it

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

The Shining.

  1. What was the most recent concert – of any genre – that made you fall in love with music all over again?

Pianist Ron Stabinsky live at WVIA in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

  1. Which are your very favorite and least favorite venues for live music?

Favorite: Bunker Ulmenwall in Bielefeld, Germany – unique, intimate, historic. Least Favorite: All venues for live music are great!

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” — Martin Mull (probably)

  1. If you could have a drink with any late visual artist of the past, who would it be?

Wassily Kandinsky.

  1. What are the top three tools of your trade?

Spirocore strings, carbon fiber Codabow, computer.

  1. What are your top media sources of writing/opinion/news about music?

Reddit, The New Yorker, Ethan Iverson’s Do the Math.

  1. What non-musical/non-technological quality is most important to being an enduringly creative musician?

A positive attitude.

  1. What living person do you most admire – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most admire?

Keanu Reeves – integrity.

  1. What living person do you most despise – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most despise?

Mitch McConnell – greed.

  1. What’s your favorite place in the world?

Astoria, New York – comfortable, convenient, home.

  1. If you could live in another time period, when would that be?

The Obama administration…

  1. What book would you most like to read again?

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

  1. What film haven’t you seen that you feel like you should?


  1. What aspect of the past do you miss most – and what’s one thing you look forward to about the future that doesn’t yet exist?

I miss record stores. And I look forward to self-driving cars.

  1. What would you like your last meal to consist of?

Brisket from Black’s BBQ in Lockhart, Texas.