Viewing: Dmitri Matheny Memoir - View All Posts

CONGRATULATIONS, MISS NELLE ! 




I first read Harper Lee's southern gothic story To Kill a Mockingbird when I was 12, at the Brookstone School in Columbus, Georgia.

I was too young to fully appreciate the novel's themes, but its compelling characters made a deep and lasting impression, ultimately becoming part of my personal mythology.

I've always aspired to be like ATTICUS FINCH:  a beloved, respected, tireless crusader and a morally upright community leader.

Atticus is educated, honest and articulate, yet free of racial and class prejudice. He does not hold himself to be superior to his neighbors. In fact, he hides his extraordinary skills (for example, he's an expert marksman) until they're necessary. Atticus is the intersection of supreme intellectual confidence and absolute social humility.

As it turns out, I'm no Atticus Finch.

I'm more like BOO RADLEY: a pale, reclusive, misunderstood shut-in.

I keep to myself, emerging for the occasional creative, caring or heroic act. These go, for the most part, unseen, unsung and unpunished.

And I'm more like the MOCKINGBIRD: I don't do much but make music for folks to enjoy...(and that's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird).

Congratulations, Ms. Lee, on the 50th anniversary of the publication of your masterpiece -- and thank you.

A LABOR OF LOVE ~ DM on Monarch Records 



Like many independent jazz labels, Monarch Records was a labor of love. None of us got rich, but we had fun and were able to make available some quality music by Cedar Walton, Dave Ellis, Eddie Marshall and others. We released dozens of recordings before the company was sold. I'm most proud of our live recording by Art Farmer, one of his last and our best.

THE AMINA FIGAROVA INTERNATIONAL BAND 



Amina Figarova can play faster and with more energy than any horn player. I tease Amina and the "crazy Euros" about their intensity, but I admire their joie de vivre and their work ethic. They challenge me artistically and every performance is a party. Amina is a world class pianist and is one of the most distinctive jazz composers in Europe today. I met her at the Monk Institute's summer jazz colony in Aspen a few years ago and we hit it off. In the years to follow, our international band became like a family, touring and performing all over the world together and having a great time always.

~DM

OLD SCHOOL ~ DM on Red Reflections 



Red Reflections was my first CD as leader, recorded when I was 29. We mostly recorded my originals. Art Farmer recommended that we include "The Outlaw" from the Horace Silver book. We also did a Michael Brecker tune we all used to play at jam sessions in Boston. We played a string of club performances and then went into the studio—old school—so the recording really captures our live quintet sound just as it was in the mid-'90s.

PASSING THE TORCH ~ DM on the Jazz Lineage 



It has been my privilege to work with a number of master musicians over the years. The lesson I learned from all of them is to follow their example, aspire to excellence, and pay it forward.

Now that I'm having some modest success of my own, I try to encourage young talent they way I was encouraged. As James Williams used to say, jazz is about passing the torch, from one generation to the next.

INSPIRING ~ DM on Ingrid Jensen 



One of my favorite players on the scene currently is Ingrid Jensen. Ingrid is inspiring because she's expanding the vocabulary for trumpet and flugelhorn, extending the innovations of Kenny Wheeler and Woody Shaw in a very personal and compelling way.

Incidentally, Art Farmer was also a fan of Ingrid. He predicted that she will ultimately be recognized as a major artist of historical significance.

A REMARKABLE GIFT ~ DM on Art Farmer 



It's a remarkable gift, to meet your hero, the world's acknowledged master on your instrument, and for him to ultimately become your teacher and friend. Miraculously, it happened to me, and I will be forever grateful.

Mentor-protege relationships in jazz are so important. It's wonderful that colleges, conservatories and other institutions are now embracing jazz education, but I feel strongly that our master musicians need to maintain the lineage of the oral tradition.

There are some things you just can't learn in school.

TREASURE ~ DM on Art's Horn 



Art Farmer had a comfortable life in Vienna, with a house, a family and a steady gig as soloist with the radio orchestra there, but he never rested on his laurels. He continued to practice every day and develop as an artist, maintaining his profile, recording and touring internationally right up until the very end of his life.

When Art died, Billy Taylor and I performed a duet at his memorial, and I was honored to play one of Art's flugelhorns. This is the horn I play today: a custom hybrid with an American Kanstul bell, French Besson lead-pipe and English Besson valves. I treasure this one-of-a-kind instrument, but I'll probably go to my grave trying to figure out how Art was able to produce such a gorgeous tone.

WARM VALLEY ~ DM on Farmer's Masterpiece 



Art Farmer made over 200 recordings, many of them brilliant, but to my ears his masterpiece is
Warm Valley on the Concord label. Art was at the top of his game, and the tunes he picked for the date are perfect showcases for the effortless logic of his improvisations. His band on the recording was one of his best, and they all give great performances. Akira Tana's playing on "Three Little Words," for example, is absolutely killing.

THE GOLD STANDARD ~ DM on Art Farmer 



Art Farmer was my mentor and was one of the wisest and kindest men I've ever met. My years under his tutelage were an invaluable part of my education. Art was my finishing school, and I'm profoundly grateful to him for how generous he was with his time, sharing his wisdom about music and life.

Art taught me what to value in this craft of jazz: the importance of taking risks and challenging yourself, yet never losing the fundamental primacy of playing in tune with a mature tone above all.

He would say, "Fill that horn with air! It doesn't matter how hip you can play if you don't maintain a good sound." And he really walked the talk, developing a tone so rich, round and warm, it has become the gold standard for anyone who is serious about the big horn.

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