JAM Magazine | Jazz Beat Forum | 52nd Street Jazz
Dmitri Matheny Starlight Cafe
Fall 1998
By Mike Metheny

At last. Another jazz musician who gets to answer the question, "Are you related to Pat?"

"But seriously...I don't think there's any direct relation here. Grandad Harrison Metheny (1887-1980) used to tell brother Pat and I that the different spellings came out of some Civil War split (a James Matheny was Lincoln's best man), so, it's probably safe to say we are distant cousins at best. Still, on a personal level, it's always interesting to learn of other musical chromosomes that have popped up in the extended family.

I remember first hearing about Dmitri Matheny during the tail end of my Boston years (1976-89) when he was a student at Berklee (he graduated magna cum laude in '89). In the years since, he has blossomed into a wonderful trumpet player as has been documented on two prior Monarch releases, Red Reflections and Penumbra.

On this, his third CD as a leader, Dmitri displays the kind of flugelhorn sound that has inspired this Metheny to start spending an extra hour each day in the woodshed. It's as gorgeous and soulful as a sumptuous full moon on a breezy summer night. And that's not to mention a level of technique and fluidity that will probably end up adding another hour to this admirer's new regimen.

It's also fun to try to spot the influences. Because Starlight Cafe is mostly an evocative, late night session with drummerless accompaniment, Dmitri's lyrical side is almost always the center of attention. When it is, Jack Sheldon immediately comes to mind. But there's also a dash of Chet, a little Bobby Shew, and some Tom Harrell. It's an amalgam that makes for a single new and refreshing voice.

The fare on Starlight Cafe is a straight ahead assortment of originals and recognizable standards ("Corcovado," "Stardust," "When Lights Are Low"), all of which are played with great lyricism and group empathy. In pianist Darrell Grant and bassist Bill Douglass, Dmitri Matheny has found the perfect backup for this kind of date; after all, playing a whole gig without a drummer takes a special kind of musicianship. This threesome pulls it off brilliantly.

This is excellent music from three very talented artists. And it offers additional proof that, at 33, Dmitri Matheny is clearly poised to become one of the jazz world's next important trumpet/flugelhorn players.

A big thumbs up from this distant cousin in KC.