Flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny and his quintet play perfectly on Cascadia. There is no surprise there—with a rhythm section of pianist Bill Anschell, bassist Phil Sparks and drummer Mark Ivester backing the front line of Matheny and saxophonist Charles McNeil— perfection is the expectation.
Matheny grew up in Georgia and Arizona, spent a formative and near-obligatory stint in New York City, and played for a time in the band of pianist Amina Figarova—another jazz artist who knows something about crafting gorgeous music.
Cascadia is, in part, a celebration of Matheny's adopted home in the Northwest, where he has connected with Origin Records for this, his debut on the label. The music has roots in the mid-sixties Blue Note Records era. The project sounds relaxed, as if making these sounds is so easy to do. It is soulful. Saxophonist Charles McNeil gives off a Ben Webster vibe when he plays tenor, and pianist Bill Anschell—a long time Origin Records artist—has that crystalline touch and the sparkle of Red Garland.
The theme—aside from the Matheny's home in the Northwest—seems to be pure beauty. His flugelhorn sound is warm and round, with a glow, like pure gold, no alloys allowed.
The disc opens with the Matheny-penned title tune, one of six of the horn man's strong, heartfelt originals presented here. He writes— and the group plays—with deep feeling. His "Dark Eyes" displays a perhaps nostalgic enchantment of the look from a past paramour, featuring a soft, gentle conversation between flugelhorn and saxophone, while "Perfect Peaches" steps lightly, on the sunny side of the street side, and "The Lonesome Road" delves deep into the soul side of sound.
The covers are chosen well—John Coltrane's "After The Rain," Tadd Dameron's "On A Misty Night," band mate Anschell's "Humble Origins," and especially—though it might seem an odd choice—Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Line Man," a 1968 top ten radio hit for Glen Campell. The familiarity of the melody, the lushness and the lovely execution of the arrangement brings Creed Taylor's CTI Records releases to mind. An odd choice, but the right one for this polished presentation of mainstream jazz.