Subsequently he moved to America to study at the Berklee College of Music, graduating from there in 1988.
He gained experience playing with a wide range of artists including Humphrey Lyttelton, Paz, Roadside Picnic, Itchy Fingers and Sax Appeal. He then formed his own sextet, playing soft and hard bop – many his own compositions – and featuring trumpeter Martin Shaw and bass player Malcolm Creese, for whose Audio-B label he has made several albums. He has also recorded with Paz, Roadside Picnic, Itchy Fingers, NYJO, the Michael Garrick Big Band, Sax Appeal and Jamie Cullum.
His sextet was nominated in the Best Small Group category at the 1997 British Telecom Jazz Awards; Matt was nominated in the alto saxophone category, and he won the award as that year’s Rising Star. The Matt Wates Sextet also won the Best Small Group award in 2001.
Surprisingly, for an alto saxophonist of his generation and background, Matt plays with a gentle, subtly intriguing sound and style.