August 4, 1997
By Benny Villalobos
Like I did, Dmitri Matheny spent many an hour of his childhood in the dark, cross-legged in front of the turntable, listening to jazz. And like almost everyone I hung around with, Matheny was especially turned on by the cool, brassy jazz of Miles Davis, that haunting, hermetic man who did more for the jazz trumpet than anyone since Louis Armstrong.
Growing up in the Southwest during the 1970s, though, Matheny probably found that there were not a hell of a lot of resources for aspiring jazzmen in these parts. But still, he has come into his own.
Young Dmitri Matheny was so thoroughly taken with Miles Davis that he chose the flugelhorn and trumpet as his media of choice. But by the time he moved to Tucson in his teens, he was already on his way to using these tools to craft a sound that was thoroughly his own.
Before he was 20, he was playing with Ramsey Lewis, and by the early '90s he was training under the eminent flugelhornist Art Farmer. Renown finally came in 1995 with his debut CD Red Reflections, a collection of "sound paintings in jazz" that not only showcased Matheny's sculptural performance but also many of his own compositions. It quickly became one of the biggest-selling releases under the Monarch label, and it was praised by some as the best jazz title of the year.
Now the Dmitri Matheny Group is back in its latest outing, Penumbra: the Moon Sessions, featuring a host of music inspired by the shimmering disk we call the moon. Broad, airy and a little mysterious, the Matheny sound is complemented well by this celestial theme. And when you listen close, you can pretty much hear where he's coming from.
But as cool jazz goes, Matheny's is a sound that won't be overshadowed.