Your Most Difficult Playing Situation
November 1995
By P. Helou

Dmitri Matheny has played on stage, on different occasions, with the Temptations, Fabian, Martha Reeves and Sam Rivers. A resident of San Francisco, he graduated cum laude from Berklee College of Music in 1989 and is a former member and leader of the SOMA Ensemble. His debut disc as a leader, Red Reflections, is scheduled for international release this spring.

What has been your most difficult playing situation to date?

"Well, that would be when I played with the Temptations.

At first I didn't know it was The Temptations. The guy who hired me was the trombone player who was touring with them. He just said, 'Here's where the gig is and here's how much it pays.'

So I got into the van and went to this arena in Boston called The International Place.

Now prior to this I had been playing jazz gigs for audiences of maybe 30 or 40 people. So when I arrive at The International Place, I don't know how many thousands of people were there, but it was just the hugest crowd I'd ever seen in my life.

There was no rehearsal. We just walked out and they put the music in front of us. I'm out there with all the other horn players and we're all dressed alike and the music director comes out and counts us off and that's it.

I remember the first tune we played was the Motown tune "Dancing in the Street." It has a trumpet intro that I recognized. Then the singer came out singing, and some others were dancing, and that's when I realized that we were backing The Temptations with Martha Reeves.

I just wanted to watch because they were all in front of me dancing so slick, and I was just star struck, but I had to read my music. All at once, I was nervous and laughing but had to play. Again, I was used to playing for jazz audiences, which are usually much smaller, so this was a really challenging new experience for me.