Studio Musicians In Philly You Need to See

Nov. 07, 2018

Studio musicians are the unsung heroes of the music and recording world. Also known as session players, studio musicians are the musicians who work with singers or recording artists who need a musician for a specific. Due to the nature of their work, session players are typically well-versed in multiple instruments across various genres. Session players perform locally and internationally, likely with artists you already know and love. While you may not know any session players by name, you’ve undoubtedly listened to a session player working alongside one of your favorite bands or recording artists. Here are some of the best session players you can find in Philadelphia.

Brian Fitzy

The wildly talented Brian “Fitzy” Fitzgerald got his degree in classical instrument performance from West Chester University, and started his post-college career with performing with The Foo Fighters at the Grammy Awards as a Top 3 finalist in the “My Grammy Moment” competition. Since that fateful day, Fitzy has worked with Philly favorites such as The Roots and Rusted Root, playing anywhere from The Madison Square Garden to your favorite local live music venue. While Fitzy’s A-list collaborations are impressive, the list of instruments he’s mastered is even more so. Having been raised by a musician mother and learning an instrument every year since the age of 9, Fitzy can play violin, viola, guitar, bass, saxophone, the drums, and even dabbles in the accordion. Fitzy’s broad talent allows him to play just about any instrument a recording artist or potential gig may require, making him one of the most versatile session players you can find in Philadelphia. While the world of session playing is fast paced, Fitzy always rises to the challenge. Fitzy says, “Very often when I arrive, they want me to write the parts and arrange on the fly. I do it in my head as I go.” Fitzy continues, “The variety that comes has been the coolest thing; it keeps you on your toes and makes you better. Sometimes it’s trying to get a whole orchestra’s worth of work in an hour and a half! But it’s worth it.”

His most recent album, Hard Times for Dreamers, features Fitzy creating songs as a one-man-band in one unbelievable collection. His first track, “Your Hero Never Dies” plays as a loving homage to Philadelphia with a “1970s Philly soul with lush orchestral soundscapes, rugged hip-hop beats, touches of electro-pop, and invigorating modern R&B hooks”. You can find Fitzy playing live in the Movember Gala for Philadelphia’s Alternative Rock Station 104.5 radio on December 12, 2018.

Brian Fitzy

Matt Cappy

Matt Cappy has worked with more popular recording artists than you can name across any genre you can think of, earning him the list of work he’s accomplished with A-list artists we all know and love. Cappy was born a New Jersey native, but earned his Philly street cred through working with some of Philly’s best Neo-soul artists like Jill Scott, The Roots, and Musiq Soulchild. Cappy also attended the University of the Arts (for both undergrad and graduate degrees) and has been the Board Governor of the Philadelphia Chapter of The Recording Academy since 2003. Cappy’s musical range covers jazz, hip hop, neo-soul and more genres than we have the time to name here. You may have even caught a peek of Cappy’s talents on television, since he has performed on popular shows like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Dave Letterman Show, Conan O’Brien and the VH1 Hip Hop Honors show.

Part of Cappy’s success can be linked to his having two fantastic mentors who worked with him from when he was very young and into college, Joe Fallon and Rick Kerber. Both musicians were session players themselves, and Cappy credits mentors Fallon and Kerber as the key to his career and ability to this day. After graduating from University of the Arts, Cappy found his way into the jazz scene by attending a club called Wilamena’s, a then lively jazz club (WIlamena’s has since closed its doors). While becoming a regular at the club, Cappy encountered the musicians of Jill Scott’s very first band, Fatback Taffy. After rubbing shoulders with the band members, it wasn’t long before Cappy worked his way into playing trumpet as an official member of the band himself.

Since kicking off his multi-dimensional career, Cappy has worked with Michael Jackson, Maxwell, Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Erykah Badu and many, many more. You can catch Cappy at the Matt Cappy/Jonathan Scales Fourchestra on November 19, 2018.

Matt Cappy

Luke O’Reilly

By the age of ten years old, O’Reilly was able to play the piano (after taking group piano lessons alongside his mom) and the saxophone while listening to influencers like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire and James Brown. He found his love for jazz at the age of 14 and was well on his way to becoming one of the greats. This was further evident as he had played with Clark Terry, Joshua Redman, Walter Blanding, and Steve Turre before he hit the age of 17. O’Reilly spent the majority of his childhood in Boston, Massachusetts, but found his way to Philadelphia after accepting an academic and music scholarship from the Esther Boyer School of Music at Temple University.

Once O’Reilly touched down in Philly, O’Reilly did everything in his power to become a part of the Philly and R&B scene. As a result of his tenacious efforts, O’Reilly found himself touring with Curtis Fuller, Dave Valentin, Billy Paul, Slide Hampton, Nicholas Payton, Fred Wesley, Red Holloway, Steve Turre, Musiq Soulchild, Carol Riddick, K’naan. O”Reilly had even gone on tour with some of the aforementioned artists before even graduating from Temple. O’Reilly is currently performing all around Philly and beyond, all while acting as band leader for Mole Street Artists’ Brian Williams and the Get Back. Make sure to find O’Reilly at his next gig at an open mic night at South Restaurant on November 27th, 2018.

Luke O'Reilly

Eric Whatley

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Whatley discovered his love of the bass guitar at the age of 14 and has since built over 17 years of experience. His musical ability ranges from domestic and international tours to performing in pit orchestras for musicals like “Annie” and “Godspell”. Whatley dabbled in the bass guitar whenever he had a chance as a young man, finding time to play even when he was in church. Whatley learned the sounds of the bass by ear, and was able to fully dedicate his love for the instrument while studying for his B.A. in Music and Instrumental Performance at the University of the Arts. Having learned music on his own and in school, Whatley considers himself a “hybrid” artist. Whatley says, “Once I got to college, I was able to bridge the two together. I already knew how to read music, and it was the ability to have both sides.” Whatley continues, “Playing by ear anywhere, playing any style of music and being able to pick it up has really helped me become the musician I am today.”    

Whatley’s perfectionism in his craft has paid off. Whatley has recorded and performed with Jill Scott, Marsha Ambrosius, Robert Glasper, Bilal, Eric Robertson, Kindred and the Family Soul, and The Clark Sisters. In 2017, Whatley played bass for Mary J. Blige’s album, Strength of a Woman, for the track, “Set Me Free”. He is a part of three different bands, and has played with Brian Williams and the Get Back for cool Mole Street events like Young Professionals’ Night by The Barnes Foundation. Whatley did a Tiny Desk Session with Chromeo for National Public Radio in October, his second since his Tiny Desk Session with Ro James in 2016, and played in this year’s Afropunk Paris Fest with Maxwell. Hurry and find Whatley at World Cafe Live for this month’s 21Soul Sessions November 8th, 2018.

Eric Whatley

We hope you learned a little bit about the incredible talent behind some of our favorite studio musicians in Philadelphia. Visit Mole Street Artists to check out more seriously cool local artists performing all over Philadelphia!

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