Cascadia encompasses an hour of amiable, even-tempered jazz from trumpeter Dmitri Matheny who, like several of his predecessors—Chet Baker, Chuck Mangione, Guido Basso and his mentor, Art Farmer, among them—focuses exclusively on flugelhorn (that and his alert and able-bodied quintet). Matheny uses his gorgeous tone and remarkable lyricism to paint exquisite portraits in sound throughout a program whose ten engaging numbers enfold half a dozen of his original compositions.
Matheny shares the front line with saxophonist Charles McNeal whose solos (on soprano or tenor sax), much like the leader's, are bright and well-reasoned with nary a misspent note or phrase. The rhythm section is sharp and on-point too, with strong accompaniment and dexterous solos by pianist Bill Anschell (who also wrote the soft-flowing "Humble Origins") reinforcing steadfast groundwork from bassist Phil Sparks and drummer Mark Ivester.
Matheny wrote the tasteful opener, "Cascadia," which precedes "Tadd Dameron's jazz standard, "On a Misty Night," and five more of Matheny's bright and easygoing compositions (including one bossa, "Perfect Peaches," and one ballad, "Dark Eyes"). "Evergreen Girl" is a soulflul jazz-shuffle, "Bourdain" a warm tribute to the late celebrity chef and author, Anthony Bourdain. "Humble Origins" is sandwiched between Jimmy Webb's pop hit, "Wichita Lineman," and John Coltrane's lustrous ballad, "After the Rain," which closes the session.
Matheny is a master of his chosen horn, and Cascadia, his twelfth album as leader, redeems in expressiveness and beauty what it may lack in fire and brimstone.