SAN TAN SUN NEWS
December 6, 2014
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
A protégé of legendary trumpeter and flugelhornist Art Farmer, Chandler musician Dmitri Matheny said it's important to persuade youngsters to listen to jazz. If he hadn't indulged as a kid, he may not have moved on to be dubbed “one of the jazz world's most talented horn players” or “unquestionably a master.”
Matheny is doing his part with “The SnowCat,” a heartwarming tale of a little girl's search for her wandering white cat on a chilly afternoon. Each year, the musician and his friends bring “The SnowCat” to life in a series of performances for families, including 11 a.m. Saturday, December 13 at the Chandler Center for the Arts.
“We used to do shows every Christmas, where we would take a children's story like ‘Santa Claus’ or ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ or ‘The Grinch’ and set it to music,” Matheny says. “We did these in San Francisco just about every year for 10 years. They were pretty popular among kids and grandparents.”
But when lawyers asked him to license the characters, he created an original story.
“The SnowCat is based on an ancient Japanese parable about an ox herder, a little boy who goes looking for his lost ox,” says Matheny, who changed the story to a little girl and a cat.
The show explores a wide range of genres, including reggae, jazz, hip hop, funk and calypso.
“It's really lively,” he says. “We're able to keep the attention of the little kids.”
There are coloring books and plush toys to enhance the experience. As vocalist Holly Pyle performs the songs, images and text from the book are being projected on the wall behind the musicians.
“It encourages literacy,” Matheny says. “Parents can read along with kids. While we're performing, some of the people are sitting like a typical audience. Some are dancing, though, and some are lying on the stage around us, coloring. It's a wild time, man.”
Born on December 25, 1965, in Nashville, Matheny was raised in Georgia before his family moved to Tucson, where his father took a job as a teacher.
Attracted to his father's collection of jazz and classical LP records, Matheny began piano lessons at age 5 and switched to the trumpet at age 9. While in his teens, he fell in love with the flugelhorn and left home to attend Michigan's prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy and then Boston's Berklee College of Music.
After private studies with Carmine Caruso in New York City, Matheny became the protégé of Farmer, a formative relationship that lasted over a decade.
With more than 60 recordings in his discography, Matheny said his latest album, “Sagebrush Rebellion,” is his 10th as a leader.
“We're able to do this for a living,” he said. “It's nice to play music for people, travel around and make friends.”
Dmitri Matheny's The SnowCat will be performed at 11 a.m. Saturday, December 13 at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Avenue, Chandler. Tickets are $8 general admission. For more information, call (480) 782-2680 or visit www.chandlercenter.org.