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Dmitri Matheny: Starlight Café

At its best, as on Marian McPartland’s “Twilight World” and Joe Locke’s “Saturn’s Child,” the airy, vulnerable tone of Matheny’s flugelhorn works well on this mixed-bag album, and the sonorous intonations of pianist Darrell Grant and bassist Bill Douglass are equally appropriate. Elsewhere, the horn can seem either too eager to please with showy devices, or so fragile and slippery that it’s hard for your ears to hold its sound. The group’s arrangements are similarly variable: tasteful, pleasant, and tight in some places, oblique and lax in others, with intros and outros of standards a particular problem. Whether or not because of the absence of a drummer, swing and timing are not strong points on this session, but the overall soft sweetness may fit with mellow moods.

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