The Jazz of the Surf

San Diego Music Awards’ 2019 Best Jazz Album goes to alumni jazz duo, The Mattson 2.

If you wanted to capture the jangle of the sea and the jazz of the surf, The Mattson 2 would most certainly be the band to create the soundtrack. The guitar and drums duo, made up of identical twins and UC San Diego alumni Jared, ’11, and Jonathan Mattson, ’11, have created their own genre: “surf jazz.” The duo’s work was just recognized at the San Diego Music Awards, where they received the Best Jazz Album award for “A Supreme Love.”

Featuring Jared on guitar and Jonathan on drums, the music of The Mattson 2 is rife with colorful sounds of rhythm, improvisation, story, and of course, the ocean. As they expand the definition of jazz, they are inspiring younger generations of listeners to appreciate the beauty and depth of the genre.

The Mattson 2 have established a devoted international following since graduating together from UC San Diego in 2011. They topped the Contemporary Jazz Billboard Charts in 2017 (for “Star Stuff,” their joint LP with Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi).

Their melodic neo-punk-jazz sound has become the soundtrack for popular surf flicks; they headlined the 2017 Surfer Awards. They have played popular concert festivals including the Vans Warped and Get Out and Do Something tours.

The tall, blonde-haired twins grew up not far from UC San Diego, in the North San Diego County beach town of Encinitas. Children of two artists, the Mattsons were introduced by their father to jazz greats like Lee Morgan and Art Blakely. As teens, the twins spent their free time together surfing, skateboarding and experimenting with the sounds of jazz, rock and punk.

The two were “discovered” while they were still in high school by artist, filmmaker and photographer Thomas Campbell, who included early Mattson 2 tracks in his surf films. “He had us play sets in theaters before his movie premiers,” recalls Jonathan. “Those shows were the first time that we appeared in public as The Mattson 2.”

With an already growing following, the twins accepted admission to UC San Diego as transfer students in 2009. The school was an ideal fit for the duo, blending their passions for music and the surf. UC San Diego is ranked by Surfer Magazine as the top surf college in the nation, and the school is home to a robust music faculty including Pulitzer Prize winners and Guggenheim Fellowship recipients.

At UC San Diego, the brothers studied with renowned Department of Music faculty members including bassist Mark Dresser, saxophonist David Borgo, pianist/composer Anthony Davis, pianist/composer Kamau Kenyatta and percussionist Steven Schick.

“Our musical education at UCSD was invaluable for our development as professional musicians,” said Jared. “The foundational elements that were developed segued into building up vocabulary to become a more creative and expressive artist.”

Jonathan added, “What was encouraged in the program by professors like Borgo, Dresser, Kenyatta, Davis and Schick was to follow your own path and utilize the resources available (which were positively exhaustive) to find and tailor your own voice as a musician.”

Schick, distinguished professor and world-renowned percussionist recounts, “Working with Jonathan and Jared was always a real treat for me. They combined a progressive and forward-looking approach to music—much of which they developed in their work here at UC San Diego—with such innate and fluid musicianship. Every time they played, especially together, it was magic.”

The Mattson 2 continued the magic after graduation. They earned their Masters of Fine Arts from the University of California Irvine, and have toured throughout the U.S., Japan, Brazil, Paris, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands. They’ve played with some of the very people who inspired them to go into music in the first place—from members of the band Tortoise including Jeff Parker, John Herndon and John McEntire—to Ray Barbee, Tommy Guerrero and Money Mark.

Always pushing artistic boundaries, the brothers are continuously incorporating new experiences and, as they call it, “the beautiful weirdness,” that inspires them. Their jazzy vibe attracts fans of all ages, but their sounds particularly strike a chord among younger audiences who might not have otherwise explored the world of jazz. Taking a leading role in jazz’s renaissance is a point of pride for the two.

“I think there are many reasons why jazz is seeing a comeback. For Jonathan and me, it’s always been one of our favorite styles of music,” said Jared in an interview. “It’s an incredible balance between technique, sophistication, creativity, style and feeling. There’s a level of familiarity and uncertainty which, when you think about it, is why people enjoy Jimi Hendrix. Fans loved the melodies and the grooves, but what they also came for was an unpredictable experience. At any moment he could burn his guitar.”

Listen to “The Mattson 2” on Spotify or visit your local record store for copies of “A Supreme Love.” The album and tour dates are also available at