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Dmitri Matheny: Penumbra (The Moon Sessions)

Jim Santella By

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Dmitri Matheny and Dave Ellis are tight. Their flugelhorn and tenor saxophone complement each other well, providing harmony, added color, and tonal variety. With a theme album that refers to the majestic beauty of the moon's presence in the sky that we all experience — a common bond around the world — the leader offers a set of beautiful and interesting pieces.

The title track is a slow ballad and a feature for John Heller's guitar, while the duo of Ellis and Matheny provide an appropriate countermelody. Tom Harrell's "Moon Alley" and Lee Morgan's "Desert Moonlight" are smooth and serene, both demonstrating how well the flugelhorn / tenor sax duo work together. Bassist Bill Douglass picks up the hsiao, a primitive flute, and serves the traditional Chinese melody "Autumn Moon," which introduces the comfortable Neil Young "Harvest Moon" and its down-home feel. Matheny's composition "Moon Rocks" is subtitled "Keepnews Blues" because Orrin Keepnews provided the arrangement. The swinging piece showcases Ellis and Matheny in their most enthusiastic solos of the album.

The "Moon Song Trinity" is three of Matheny's compositions: "Sea Of Tranquility," "Sea Of Serenity," and "Sea Of Fertility." From the bowed bass melody, tango rhythm, dancing accordion harmony (by guest Rob Burger), and stirring, trumpet-like voice of Matheny's flugelhorn, to the unison saxophone / flugelhorn lines with guitar chording behind, and the extended drum solo, this set demonstrates well the variety and sensitivity evoked by the composer, and performers. Recommended.

Title: Penumbra (The Moon Sessions) | Year Released: 1997 | Record Label: Monarch Records

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