Dmitri Matheny Starlight Café (Monarch)
Review by Steve Futterman
Dmitri Matheny hardly plays an unpretty note on his flugelhorn throughout Starlight Café (Monarch). Dexterously, if discretely, accompanied by pianist Darrell Grant and bassist Bill Douglass, Matheny essays ballads and mid-tempo pieces with a winning, natural lyricism. For a player like Matheny, finding the most comely and voluptuous of notes and weaving them into mellow phrases is the very passion of jazz. There’s a treacherously thin line between genuine sweetness and banality, yet Matheny doesn’t even come within earshot of that border.
He’s also a smart judge of repertoire. Amid the more obvious choices of standards — "Stardust,” “When You Wish Upon a Star,” “When Lights Are Low” — and his own engaging compositions, Matheny also casts a discerning eye on three superb jazz originals: “Twilight World” by Marian McPartland, “Saturn’s Child” by Joe Locke, and “Spring Skylight” by Darrell Grant. The value of a great ear can never be underestimated. And while no one’s about to mistake him for, say, Art Farmer, this instrumentalist/entrepreneur (Matheny runs Monarch Records) is unquestionably a master of his own refined territory.