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UP IN THE AIR | PART 3 — CITIZEN OF THE WORLD 

“Remember, you’re not alone. 
You’re part of an international 
brotherhood of artists and musicians. 
We’re all in this together.” 

—Art Farmer 


I aspire to be a Citizen of the World. 

A world citizen is a xenophile whose identity transcends geography. Rather than swearing allegiance to a particular nation, ethnicity, or religion, the world citizen treats everyone with equal respect, and derives his rights and responsibilities from membership in the human race at large. He endeavors to be a man for all people. 
 

I aspire to be a Citizen of the World.

Art Farmer was such a man. At the height of his success, as his Jazztet was winning American popularity polls, Art relocated to Vienna, Austria, then commenced to tour internationally for decades. His extensive discography includes dozens of collaborations with musicians all over the world. Near the end of his storied life and career, he was awarded both the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship, the highest honor our nation bestows upon a jazz musician, and the prestigious Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art, First Class

World Citizen Art Farmer received the highest honors in both America and Austria 

Art had been an adventurer ever since he was a teen, when he and twin brother Addison set out for Los Angeles in search of their destinies. But even after many productive decades in the music business, Art never lost his humility or curiosity. He knew that his chosen career of traveling musician granted admission to the global creative class, an identity he cherished as the foundation of his enlightened worldview. 

“Remember, you’re not alone,” Farmer told a room full of aspiring jazz students at Stanford University. “You’re part of an international brotherhood of artists and musicians. We’re all in this together.” 

Art Farmer’s philosophy resonated deeply with me, perhaps even more than his brilliant, lyrical music. He was “beyond category,” a true Citizen of the World, and I was inspired to live by his example. 

In the years since my mentor’s passing, I’ve been fortunate to enjoy many opportunities for international travel with family, friends and fellow musicians. Occasionally I experienced little more than a hotel and concert hall, but whenever time would allow, I made sure to get out, see the sights, and break bread with the locals. I’ve watched the sunrise in Tuscany, climbed the cliffs of Santorini, serenaded penguins in Patagonia, viewed fireworks over Bangkok, and listened to evening prayers echo through the streets of Jakarta. I’ve visited an artist in Kyoto, a tea master in Uji, a winemaker in Alsace and a chocolatier in Brussels. I’ve met so many fascinating people in my travels, several of whom have become lifelong friends. 

I’m grateful to the bandleaders who invited me to be part of their international adventures, notably Suzan Lesna, Keiko Osamu, and especially Amina Figarova, with whom I recorded two albums and performed in a dozen different countries on tour. For several years in the late nineties and early aughts, Amina and her husband Bart generously hosted me at their home in the Netherlands each fall, an annual residency that enriched my life beyond measure. I love and admire them both as artists, friends, and world citizens. 

It was my privilege to record two albums with Amina for Munich Records 


Although I never became a pilot (holding out for a jetpack, I suppose), I never missed an opportunity to fly, and the long international flights were often most luxurious. Singapore Airlines provided big leather chairs, soft lighting, and an array of Asian delicacies. British Airways offered formal tea and cakes; Japan Airlines served sake and sushi. Virgin Airlines had spa treatments and sleeping pods. And KLM, my favorite, boasted a gorgeous cohort of leggy blonde stewardesses, whose fitted blue uniforms and winning smiles harkened back to the Golden Age of Air Travel. 

The airports, however, were chaotic, unpleasant places. Everyone was on high alert after 9/11. Departure meant grappling with the recently formed TSA, whose agents relished their nascent power like freshly minted mall cops. Arrival meant trying to appear inconspicuous under the gaze of scowling soldiers, in full riot gear, with machine guns. 

We learned to allow an extra hour or two for security screening, during which agents would empty our bags, disassemble our instruments, pat us down and shout commands over the hum of x-ray scanners. “Empty your pockets! Take off your belt and shoes! No liquids!” On one occasion I was pulled out of line, strip-searched down to my socks, and interrogated. “What is this?” barked the agent, holding up my tiny bottle of valve oil. “And exactly what sort of name is Dmitri?” he demanded suspiciously, squinting at the random assortment of stamps in my passport. 

But it wasn’t always so bad. One of my favorite airport memories was arriving in Baku, Azerbaijan for the 2002 Caspian Sea Jazz Festival. I’d been working with Amina for several years, and was thrilled to see her ancestral homeland for the first time. I wanted to find out what sort of Silk Road Shangri-La could produce such a regal, charismatic bandleader. I nicknamed Amina “The Diva,” and often teased her about her aristocratic lineage and manner, but I didn’t fully appreciate where she was coming from until that day. 

We arrived in Baku exhausted, to long lines of weary, grey-faced travelers. Prepared for a long wait at customs, we took our place at the back of the crowd. Suddenly a dapper gentleman in a dark suit appeared beside us. He smiled warmly, greeted us by name, placed our passports in his breast pocket, and handed Amina a giant bouquet of flowers, kissing her on both cheeks. The distinguished official then ushered us briskly through the crowd, past customs, down a private corridor and straight outside, where a ceremonial honor guard stood waiting at attention beside a row of shiny black town cars. “Apparently Amina is kind of a big deal around here,” I muttered to no-one in particular. 

I was right. The whole band was wined, dined, and treated like royalty. There were welcome gifts, guided tours, shopping excursions to the Taza Bazaar, and even a special banquet in Amina’s honor. We feasted on grilled lamb, champagne and caviar, serenaded by a traditional darbuka ensemble complete with belly dancer, who danced with all of us after dinner. The evening concluded with an astonishingly long series of celebratory cognac and vodka toasts to Amina, her family, and the band. It was a glorious evening. 

the whole band was wined, dined, and treated like royalty 

The festival itself was a triumph of concerts, workshops, jam sessions and creative collaboration. I’ll never forget the delightfully surreal evening we spent at the Caravan Jazz Club, where we performed the funk classic “Pass the Peas” with an international superband of Sax ’N Hop (Germany), Toots Thielemans (Belgium), our quintet (Azerbaijan, Belgium, Netherlands, USA), and half a dozen hungry young horn players. 

But the great highlight was our concert at the historic Respublika Palace theater. We played our hearts out, and the band never sounded better. Amina’s modern jazz compositions, especially the ones inspired by traditional Azeri folksongs, were a huge hit with the hometown crowd. The audience cheered wildly. 

the highlight was our concert at the historic Respublika Palace theater 

 

20 years later, I still aspire to be a Citizen of the World, but no longer wish to to travel so far, or so often. Touring is a young man’s game, and my jet-setter days best be behind me.

My new dream is a little more down-to-earth. I’m now in the market for a small camper van with a bed in the back, a simple “tour bus” in which my dog Scout and I can ramble around the western states together.

We’ll take our time, travel the back roads, see the sights, and break bread with the locals. 

And who knows? I might even play a gig or two.

CHET BAKER & THE SOUND OF SINCERITY 

Clockwise (L-R) bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse, Chet Baker, Dmitri Matheny at the Chet Baker Memorial in Amsterdam

 

The first Chet Baker recording I ever heard was not one of his celebrated cool jazz hits from back when he looked like James Dean and played like Miles Davis. 

No, I fell in love with Chet in the 1980s, long after his heyday, when he was struggling to play on new dentures and looked more like Clint Eastwood at the end of Pale Rider. Chet was living in Europe at the time, and the album that captivated me, Crystal Bells, showcased his working Belgian trio with guitarist Philip Catherine and bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse. 

It was that sound that got me. Chet’s warm tone and halting, yet lyrical lines, were imbued with a fragile, searching quality that hit me like a bullseye right in my melancholy teenage heart. 

I must have listened to that album a thousand times. 

The drummerless trio provided the perfect balance of interactivity and space for the old explorer, who seemed to be finding his way back from some kind of profound loss.  At the time, I didn’t know anything about Chet’s troubled history, but it was all there, laid bare, in the music. 

I felt as if I had found the secret key to a soulful world of authenticity and deep feeling. 

Chet died a few years later and my appreciation for him only grew.

When I had the opportunity to work with Jean-Louis Rassinfosse in the Netherlands, I told him how much I loved Crystal Bells.

Jean-Louis smiled broadly. “Chet didn’t even have a horn, you know,” he said. 

“He’d long ago sold it for drug money. But he kept the mouthpiece in his pocket.” 

The veteran bassist then described their routine, how each morning they would call ahead to the next little village on tour and invite all the brass players in the area to come down to the club with their horns. 

"At sound check there would be this little row of open instrument cases on the stage," he said. "Chet would go down the line, try out a few different horns, pick one, and that would be the instrument he played that night!

“Sometimes trompet, sometimes kornet or bugel, every night a different instrument,” Jean-Louis said. “But he always sounded like Chet.

“It was that sound, that same sound, always,” Jean-Louis marveled. “And every night, somebody would ask, ‘How do you get that amazing tone? What kind of instrument is that?’ as if the horn itself was somehow magical.

"But it was just Chet. It was all Chet.” 

I love this story and 100% believe it to be true, as it confirms my long-standing belief in music as a mystical force, and in master musicians like Baker as sorcerers. The embouchure and equipment are important, but they are secondary. What matters most is your intention. 

"Get your mind right," Art Farmer once advised. "You are the instrument. That thing that you're holding is just an amplifier."

“It isn’t the horn,” John Coltrane famously said. “You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

On This Day

 

March 1, 1996

5/4 Magazine

In Seattle: Dmitri Matheny

By Joseph Murphy

 

Sometimes, in distinguishing stylists and recordings, it's the little things that stand out...more

 

March 1, 1996

JazzTimes Magazine

Dmitri Matheny Red Reflections

By Jim Ferguson

 

With the exception of drummer Alan Jones, who plays with David Friesen...more

 


March 1, 1998

Workshop @ The JazzSchool

Four Pillars of Success In The Jazz Business

Part 1, Publicity: Ann Dyer, Merrilee Trost, Jon Yanofsky

Berkeley, California

 

March 1, 1998

Concert @ The Jazzschool

Bill Douglass & Friends
Berkeley, California

 

March 1, 1999

Jazz at Pearl's 

World Premiere: Savannah Panorama

Contemporary Jazz Orchestra
San Francisco, California

 

March 1, 2000

Monterey Herald

Christmas Tunes in March

By Mac McDonald

 

I never thought I’d be listening to a Christmas album in the beginning of spring...more


March 1, 2000

Oakland Tribune

Flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny Pays Tribute To His Mentor, Art Farmer

By Christina Eng

 

Dmitri Matheny got his first instrument, a trumpet, when he was 9...more

 

March 1, 2003

Concert & Workshop @ The Jazzschool

Amina Figarova International Band

Berkeley, California

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

On This Day

November 24, 1988

New Voice Jazz Sextet

1369 Jazz Club

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Mark Gross, alto saxophone

Jack Wright, tenor saxophone

Mitch Hampton, piano

Peter Herbert, bass

Hans Schuman, drums

 

November 24, 2001

Amina Figarova Septet

The Music Village

Brussels, Belgium

Amina Figarova, piano

Bart Platteau, flute

Kurt Van Herck, tenor saxophone

Caroline Breuer, alto saxophone

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Wiro Mahieu, bass

Pieter Bast, drums

FROM THE ARCHIVES  

On This Day

November 21, 1998

Crown Project - Gershwin on Monarch

In-Store Appearance @ Borders

Greenville, Texas

An Evening with Sandi Patty

Meyerson Symphony Center

Dallas, Texas

Sandi Patty with

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Tim Davis, voice

Mark Gasbarro, piano

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra

 

November 21-22, 2002

Amina Figarova International Band

L'Inouï Café-Concert-Théâtre

Redange sur Attert, Luxembourg

Amina Figarova, piano

Bart Platteau, flutes

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Ruth Davies, bass

Chris 'Buckshot' Strik, drums

FROM THE ARCHIVES  

On This Day

November 21, 1998

Crown Project - Gershwin on Monarch

In-Store Appearance @ Borders

Greenville, Texas

An Evening with Sandi Patty

Meyerson Symphony Center

Dallas, Texas

Sandi Patty with

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Tim Davis, voice

Mark Gasbarro, piano

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra

 

November 21-22, 2002

Amina Figarova International Band

L'Inouï Café-Concert-Théâtre

Redange sur Attert, Luxembourg

Amina Figarova, piano

Bart Platteau, flutes

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Ruth Davies, bass

Chris 'Buckshot' Strik, drums

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

20 Years Ago Today

November 17, 1992

SOMA Quartet

New Performance Gallery

San Francisco, California

November 17, 2001

Amina Figarova International Band

Pinehill Studio

Leersum, Netherlands

November 17, 2002

Amina Figarova Septet

Jazz in Merz - Theater de Stoep

Spijkenisse, Netherlands

November 17, 2005

Amina Figarova International Band

The Palace Crowne Plaza

Brussels, Belgium

FROM THE ARCHIVES  

On This Day

November 16, 1991

SOMA Quartet

Home of Governor Jerry Brown

San Francisco, California

November 16, 2001

Amina Figarova International Band

L'Inouï Café-Concert-Théâtre

Redange sur Attert, Luxembourg

November 15-16, 2005

Amina Figarova International Band

L'Inouï Café-Concert-Théâtre

Redange sur Attert, Luxembourg

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

On This Day

November 14, 1986

New Voice Jazz Sextet

Northeastern University

Boston, Massachusetts

Dmitri Matheny, trumpet & flugelhorn

Mark Gross, alto saxophone

Jack Wright, tenor saxophone

Mitch Hampton, piano

Volker Nahrmann, bass

Hans Schuman, drums

Ron Della Chiesa, master of ceremonies

 

November 14, 2003

Amina Figarova International Band

The Music Village

Brussels, Belgium

Amina Figarova, piano

Bart Platteau, flutes

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Ruth Davies, bass

Chris 'Buckshot' Strik, drums

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

25 Years Ago Today

November 10, 1987

True Colors Big Band

1369 Jazz Club

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Directed by

Ken Schaphorst & Rob Scheps

Anders Bostrom, Kenny Brooks, 

Tony Devaney, John Dirac, Wendy Forgie, Jim Harp,

Curtis Hasselbring, Donny McCaslin, John Medeski,

Dmitri Matheny, Jim Odell, Mike Peipman, Josh Roseman,

Mike Sim, Joe Stoebenau, Dave Valdez, Wesley Wirth

 

November 10, 2001

Amina Figarova International Band

Jazzpodium

Dordrecht, Netherlands

Amina Figarova, piano

Bart Platteau, flutes

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Ruth Davies, bass

Chris "Buckshot" Strik, drums

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

 On This Day

 

November 7, 2002

Denise Jannah & Amina Figarova

Black Magic Woman Festival @ Pepsi Theater

Amsterdam, Netherlands



 

Denise Jannah, voice

Amina Figarova, piano

Bart Platteau, flutes

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Ruth Davies, bass

Chris "Buckshot" Strik, drums

 

November 7, 2003

Amina Figarova Septet

Pannonica

Den Haag, Netherlands

Amina Figarova, piano

Bart Platteau, flutes

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Tom Beek, alto saxophone

Kurt van Herck, tenor saxophone

Ruth Davies, bass

Chris "Buckshot" Strik, drums