Already tabbed a "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition" in the 1998 Down Beat Critics' Poll, flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny seems on the verge of establishing himself as a major new jazz star. His third release on San Francisco's Monarch label may just put him over the top.
Conceived as a "collection of nocturnes," Starlight Cafe is a quiet, hauntingly beautiful album of ballads and standards (including "Stardust," "Corcovado," "When You Wish Upon a Star," and Benny Carter's "When Lights Are Low") plus several of Matheny's similarly themed originals. The 34-year-old Nashville native, now a stalwart on the Bay Area jazz scene, is a velvety smooth player who favors the lyrical and poetic side of jazz over the fire and brimstone side championed by many of his contemporaries. His tone and overall approach bear the strong influence of his mentor, the impeccable "flumpet" player Art Farmer. His ballad playing also recalls that of another master of California romanticism, Chet Baker.
The album was recorded live in Berkeley with a drummer-less trio featuring the fine pianist Darrell Grant (ex-Betty Carter, Frank Morgan, Tony Williams) and bassist Bill Douglass (Mario McPartland's West Coast partner). Matheny and his talented cohorts have made a highly enjoyable album of late-night jazz that proves you don't need to make a lot of noise to make a strong impression.
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