If the late Rich Matteson had chosen performing instead of education as a career, he could’ve challenged harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans for top honors each year in Down Beat magazine’s “miscellaneous instruments” category. Matteson, who established the Jazz Studies program at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, often joked that he was “the world’s greatest Jazz euphonium player” (because he was, of course, the only one). Rich was definitely the first Jazz euphonium player I ever heard (at the Conference of the International Association of Jazz Educators in 1992) and I was mightily impressed, as I am again by Pardon Our Dust, recorded two years earlier in Miami with an all–star supporting cast. Besides being enormously talented, Matteson must have had quite a sense of humor, as he persuaded John Allred to lay aside his usual trombone in favor of — are you ready for this? — a euphonium! So what we have is (to my knowledge, at least) the world’s first and only CD with a two –euphonium front line. Overkill? Perhaps, but at least it’s different. In case you’re not familiar with the euphonium, it’s the tenor instrument of the tuba family, pitched in B–flat, and sounds (to these ears) somewhere close to a valve trombone. In these hands, it also sounds close to flawless. Although Matteson and Allred aren’t identical twins on the instrument, the solo order is given for handy reference. The music itself is wonderful, with sparkling compositions by Bellson (“The Hawk Talks”), Sonny Rollins (“St. Thomas”), Al Cohn (“Travissimo”) and Matteson (“Ira’s Tune,” “A Very Special Love”), three familiar standards (“Mellow Tone,” “Bye Bye Blues,” “Limehouse Blues”) and one lesser–known but no less agreeable tune (“Rosette”). Matteson and Allred are marvelous throughout, as are their seasoned and swinging companions. Pardon Our Dust may be hard to find, but it’s well worth the search.
Track listing: The Hawk Talks; St. Thomas; In a Mellow Tone; Bye Bye Blues; Rosette; Travissimo; A Very Special Love; Ira’s Tune; Limehouse Blues (58:58).
Rich Matteson, John Allred, euphonium; Shelly Berg, piano; Jack Petersen, guitar; Lou Fischer, bass; Louie Bellson, drums.
Contact: Four Leaf Clover Records, Box 1231, S-17224 Sundbyberg, Sweden (e-mail email@example.com).