I’d heard about him in the best possible way — a musician who had played alongside Dmitry and admired him told me I had to come hear him. The musician, incidentally, was pianist Ehud Asherie, whose taste I trust.
I heard them in duet at Smalls and was delighted by Dmitry’s sensibility, where all schools of melodic jazz improvisation co-exist. In his cosmos, Hilton Jefferson shares the sidewalk with Sonny Rollins. Clearly he hasn’t been narrowed down to the thickness of a reed; he’s learned through playing rather than seeing himself as a product to be marketed.
I was delighted by being able to capture him live on video, and caught him recently at The Ear Inn, marveling at his sweet-tart inventiveness.
Here’s a sample — Dmitry and Joe Cohn musing on I WONDER WHERE OUR LOVE HAS GONE:
DOWN WITH IT is beautifully recorded and presented by Sharp Nine Records. On the surface, it looks like many other sessions created by young musicians with an eye to the past: Dmitry plus a empathic rhythm section of Jeb Patton, David Wong, and Jason Brown, with trumpeter Jeremy Pelt joining in for a few songs, a repertoire that draws on Monk, Gryce, Powell, Brown. Ellington, Harry Warren and others.
But this disc is no collection of Official hard Bop gestures, nor a formulaic homage to the past. Dmitry is neither an imitator nor someone self-consciously, perhaps stridently, ”innovative.”
Rather, his spinning lines are songs — new expressions, complete in themselves — more than lunges through the chord changes. He is open to the broadest jazz traditions, so his alto playing is conceived as more than an evocation of Bird. In his tone, I hear lovely sweetness, which can be traced back to Carter and Cannonball, Hodges and Woods.
In the notes to the CD, Dmitry speaks of improvising as a language, a solo as a nicely-shaped, colorful story or anecdote. His performances thus seem engaging narratives: he has songs to sing, stories to tell us.
And he’s not afraid of beautiful sounds, although the overall effect is anything but soothing syrup for the ears. In his style, everything is in balance, although he will surprise listeners as he creates.