Flugelhorn Star Matheny Is Ready for 2 Big Nights


June 1, 1999
By Ken Keuffel Jr.


Dmitri Matheny is about to lay a lot on the musical line.


Tonight, the star flugelhorn player and former Tusconan performs Gershwin with a trio led by local pianist Jeff Haskell, Matheny’s former teacher. Tomorrow, backed by Haskell and bassist Ed Friedland, Matheny offers selections from Starlight Cafe, his new Monarch CD.


The question, boys and girls, is not which show to attend but how to take in both.


Fortunately, both Matheny nights feature late Cottonwood Club shows beginning at 10:30. So even if you have other plans earlier in the evening, squeezing in a late-night set or two by Matheny and friends shouldn’t be impossible.


Downbeat, a respected jazz magazine, recently named the thirtysomething Matheny a “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition.” The flugelhorn, his trumpet-family instrument, was popularized by Chuck Mangione in the ‘70s. It resembles a cornet, but its bore and bell are even wider, and, as a result, its tone is fuller and more mellow.


Matheny’s sound is fat, sometimes breathy and always expressive. It is well-suited to soulful ballads, particularly those on Starlight Cafe.


Matheny’s opening unaccompanied solo on “Stardust,” the first track, seduces the listener into this and other after-hours-friendly tunes. The lovely “Whisper, Muse,” a Matheny-composed ballad, might just achieve the classic status of “Stardust.”


When the San Francisco-based Matheny isn’t playing, his equally inventive collaborators - pianist Darrell Grant and bassist Bill Douglass - sustain the mood. No drummer is used.


As one critic suggested, they say a lot - without making a lot of noise in the process.


By all means, follow the Starlight cover’s instructions to listen “when the lights are low.”


Expect a couple of fine uptempo tunes, too, such as Matheny’s “Geneva” and “Soca Nova,” a Calypso-infused tune whose unexpected pauses recall similar witticisms of Haydn.


Matheny’s Gershwin, scheduled for this evening, isn’t to be missed either.


Last year, Matheny, pianist Mark Gasbarro, and vocalists Tim Davis and Sandi Patty starred on “Gershwin on Monarch.”

This CD, released to commemorate Gershwin’s birth centennial, only enhances George and Ira Gershwin’s already strong standing in jazz. Believe me, you’ll never tire of Gershwin on Monarch.