In the small, tightly-packed room at Hashigo Zake, it felt even more crowded than usual. Maybe it was the weather, or maybe because the show was really worth it.

It was the last gig by Matt Steele before going back to Melbourne after a well-deserved summer holiday with family in Hutt.

Matt played the piano, rolled out from a corner where it had been hidden. Shaun Anderson handled the drums and, with Seth Boy behind the double bass, that made the core of the band.

But then it wouldn’t be “Matt Steele and friends” without notable guests: Jake Baxendale on the saxophone, Myele Manzanza also on drums, and James Guilford on the trumpet.

You might have seen Matt at a couple of gigs this summer as a guest. But at this one, as the host, he went all out and, with the help of his talented accomplices, bathed the audience in sparkling jazz.

The best moments of the evening were when the entire group came together to fill the small, low-ceilinged basement space with musical magic.

I find Matt’s musical manner bold, straight, colourful, and shiny as steel. But that simply doesn’t do it justice. Music is not static! It is ephemeral; changing; enchanting. As with any work of art, it is only after it is complete that we can apprehend it in its full splendour.

When Matt plays, it’s like big splashes of bright colours flung at the canvas on unexpected trajectories, but each landing precisely where intended, splash by splash revealing a beautiful composition.

Matt moved to Melbourne more than five years ago, which is where he now performs and teaches music. A recording is in the works, so keep an ear out. Meanwhile, he contributes to the community by creating joy and inspiration through various gigs and events.

We look forward to his next visit home with new tunes and new aural colours.

By Charlie Queen