After his first visit to the Pacific Northwest in the early 1990s, Dmitri Matheny, a professional jazz musician, knew he loved the region.
In 2015, after two decades of yearly return trips, Matheny finally decided to relocate from his longtime home of San Francisco to Centralia.
“I finally just decided to relocate. Truth is, I’ve always loved everything about this region: the people, the landscape, the weather, everything. When I found my little house in Centralia I never looked back,” said Matheny, 57.
Now, Matheny, known primarily as a flugelhornist, has released a new album based on the region he now calls home. Working with other musicians, Matheny sought to create an album celebrating the Pacific Northwest.
“I’m so proud of my band, and so grateful for their brilliant work on this project. We set out to celebrate the sound and spirit of our beloved home region, its luminous wonders, enchanted forests, healing waters and vibrant creative community. There’s an aspirational sense-of-place here in the upper left, and I believe our music reflects this life-affirming ethos,” Matheny said.
The album, CASCADIA, has received critical acclaim, receiving a four-star review from All About Jazz.
“The theme — aside from Matheny’s home in the Northwest — seems to be pure beauty,” said jazz critic Dan McClenaghan.
Matheny said the release of CASCADIA is one of the proudest moments of his career, and he cited his band as a reason for the album’s acclaim.
“(CASCADIA) is definitely my best album, largely because of the musicians in my band, of whom I’m very proud. I feel so fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I love and to work with artists I so admire,” Matheny said.
Other points of his career Matheny is proud of were the times he was able to overcome his own self-imposed obstacles to his work and create something amazing.
“Honestly, the moments of which I’m most proud are those precious intervals when I’ve managed to get out of my own way and write or play something pure, and simple, and true. Every jazz musician strives for those transcendent, miraculous moments when the music plays you, and not the other way around,” Matheny told The Chronicle.
Matheny has been a musician his entire life, calling his career as “a good life.” But Matheny said for all of the times in his career he’s been proud of, there’ve also been plenty of difficulties, both artistic and financial. According to Matheny, life in the music industry is volatile. Matheny said the life of a musician can be an “emotional roller coaster” at times.
“The key is to adapt, ride the waves as circumstances inevitably change, stay focused and keep your ego out of the equation. My mentor, Art Farmer, used to say that the key is humility and quiet consistency, like the grandfather clock in the corner that steadily ticks away, regardless of the weather outside,” Matheny said.
For Matheny, a life in the music industry was an almost forgone conclusion. Born in Nashville and raised in Georgia, Arizona and Michigan by his father, Matheny grew up listening to jazz records, specifically Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. His mother, who Matheny never knew, was a musician herself, having worked as a torch singer.
“So was it nurture or nature that set me on this path? I’ll never know for sure,” Matheny said.
Since his childhood listening to jazz albums, Matheny has managed to help create many albums himself. Over the course of his life, Matheny has played on over 100 albums released by other musicians. He’s also released several albums of his own, of which CASCADIA is his 12th.
And there’s more music on the way.
“I’m excited about a new duo project called Beleza! with the brilliant guitarist John Stowell. We’ve been exploring Brazilian bossa nova, samba and lesser known compositions by Antônio Carlos Jobim,” Matheny said about an upcoming project.
But he’s also decided to step back from his busy schedule. Methany said his experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic made him realize there was a lot in life he had been missing out on.
“I’m actually trying to dial back my ambitions a bit and enjoy life more. When the shutdown first happened, I realized that I'd been hustling and going and going for years. With all of that time off the road, I planted a garden, took up fishing, and even developed some hobbies. It was glorious,” Matheny said. “Now that things are opening up again, I realize that I actually don't want to work as hard as I was working before. I plan to make more time for hanging out at home with my girlfriend Sassy and our dogs.”
For Matheny, the lesson the pandemic taught him was clear.
“It turns out there’s more to life than music,” Matheny said.
The CASCADIA album is available for purchase at most major outlets. Listen to portions of the album and learn more about Matheny and his music at dmitrimatheny.com.