Matthew Whitaker is an American jazz pianist who has been blind since birth. He has performed at venues including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center and the Apollo Theater, where, at 10, he was the opening performer for Stevie Wonder’s induction into the Apollo Theater’s Hall of Fame. Whitaker is supported on Connections by an A-level circle of talent that speaks to the pandemic-defying power of community. Many are familiar names in Whitaker’s lineups—guitarist Marcos Robinson, bassists Karim Hutton and Endea Jones, and drummers Isaiah Johnson, Otis Brown III, and Johnathan Blake. Whitaker has created another truly remarkable album by combining original compositions and covers of songs that have influenced him throughout his life. The music recorded on this project is special and each has their own “connections” to the renowned jazz pianist. Aptly titled for this pivotal moment, the sixteen-track collection is his third album and serves as both a bold declaration of Whitaker’s maturity as a player, composer and bandleader, and as a statement of musical connection—and re-connection, as Whitaker points out. Those connections are highlighted through collaborations with artists like Gabe Stone Shayer, a dancer with The American Ballet Theater, and a longtime friendship with Jon Batiste, which inspired the excitement on Thelonius Monk’s, “Bye-Ya,” the deft swing of guest violinist Regina Carter, and to his musical heroes, like Stevie Wonder and Chick Corea. There is also the desire for improvisation on songs and to play different styles, as well as to Whitaker’s roots in R&B, Latin music, and Gospel.