Composer, producer and performer John Smatla.

UltraBlue turns red hot with a nod to Herbie Hancock

John Smatla, leader of global fusion collective UltraBlue, has been on a roll paying homage to jazz legends since re-releasing the group’s self-titled 2006 album last year.

Following the success of his tribute to Earl Klugh with the release of Maria in Blue, he’s released a free-spirited, horn-fired nod to jazz legend Herbie Hancock. Herbie features on UltraBlue’s upcoming album New York Stories, but the track is now on general release.

Herbie features Smatla’s dazzling improvisational piano, and joining him is sax player Eric Knight.

Smatla says before writing Herbie he was worried it wouldn’t live up to its namesake – but that once he let go and chose to have fun – the music flowed. While writing music with an industry heavyweight in mind might be daunting, what we have in Herbie is a tight, punchy, and exciting track.


Smatla is a professional freelance musician based in New York and has worked with numerous rock/pop/jazz names, including being musical director for Debbie Gibson at the start of her career.

He’s played keyboards for R&B/jazz artist Pete Belasco, works as a session keyboardist and jobbing musical director.

While first released in 2006 on CD, the UltraBlue album is now available to stream here.

Ultrablue.  MARIA IN BLUE. Official music video