Lincoln Theatre was the right place to experience Matthew Whitaker.

The venue, known for performances from history-making artists like Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Shirley Scott, was blessed with the multi-genre music talent of Whitaker.

Whitaker, a keyboard musician, was backed by a strong talented group that consisted of Marcos Robinson, guitar, Karim “Kace” Hutton, bass guitar, Isaiah Johnson, drums and Ivan Llanes, percussion. The evening featured songs from his three CDs along with classics from established jazz and R&B artists. He went out with a bang by accompanying the popular Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir.

Keyboardist Matthew Whitaker and Michele Fowlin, artistic director for the Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir (red top, back toward Whitaker) do some tweaking during rehearsal for the Oct. 15 concert at Lincoln Theatre. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Before the evening’s performance, the afternoon rehearsal illustrated Whitaker’s thoughtful patient approach ensuring everything was in sync. Working with the choir and their artistic director Michele Fowlin, time was spent working through coordinating the desired outcome. It was an upbeat collaboration that paid off in the concert.

Whitaker opened one of his compositions that segued to “Spain” by Chick Corea, one of his idols who died last year. Throughout the evening audiences were treated to interpretations from other keyboard influences of Whitaker including Dave Brubeck and Dr. Lonnie Smith, who died last month.

The first time I saw Whitaker perform was for the 2017 NEA Jazz Masters induction where Smith was one of the honorees. At the Lincoln Theatre, I heard “Pilgrimage” – a composition Whitaker told the audience that Smith performed at all of his concerts. A peaceful hush fell over the audience.

Keyboardist Matthew Whitaker and his guitarist Marcos Robinson work through arrangements with the Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir during rehearsal for the Oct. 15 concert at Lincoln Theatre. (Anthony Tilghman/ The Washington Informer)

The final set of the night featured Whitaker and Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir turning the Lincoln Theatre into a worship service. What we experienced was a form of praise worship that moved the audience to raising a hand in the air and swaying side to side. Howard University alumnus Richard Smallwood’s composition of “Mercy Endureth Forever (Psalm 118)” was extremely moving.

Finally, “To God Be the Glory” served as the perfect encore. Moving between the acoustic piano and the Hammond B3 organ, Whitaker was the church keyboardist and arranger that every church wished they had. Whitaker fans left Lincoln Theatre filled and satisfied.

Learn more about Matthew Whitaker at

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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