Dmitri Matheny Penumbra: The Moon Sessions
September 1997
Review By Robert Tate

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn; Dave Ellis, tenor sax; John Heller, guitar; Bill Douglass, bass, hsiao; Kenny Wolleson, drums; Rob Burger, accordion. Produced by Orrin Keepnews

Dmitri Matheny just wants to play beautiful music.

That’s not particularly fashionable these days, but it’s a good reason to check this album out if you are not among those who worship the gods of fashion. There’s little competition beside Matheny’s acknowledged mentor and inspiration, Art Farmer. Matheny’s fellow musicians on the date are very much tuned in to his aesthetic here, although several regularly play in quite different styles.

We’re emphatically not talking schlock. Most of these songs derive their beauty from the complexity of their harmonies and the interplay of rhythms. Horns are voiced at different intervals and the guitar adds yet another level of subtlety. Crackling snare and shimmering ride cymbal generate excitement throughout. Douglass’s unaccompanied hsiao solo is particularly poignant.

All of the songs relate to the moon - some standards, Jazz compositions by Tom Harrell and Lee Morgan, a traditional Chinese melody, and several originals. Within the ten numbers listed you can probably identify quotations from many other moon-related songs.