After staying away from standards on Red Reflections and Penumbra, Dmitri Matheny made them a high priority on his third album, Starlight Café (which was recorded live at La Note Café in Berkeley, CA in March 1998). The most accessible CD he had done so far, Starlight Cafe finds the Bay Area flugelhornist celebrating his romantic side and offering some highly soulful mood music. Those who were introduced to Matheny with his very cerebral debut album, Red Reflections, will experience a much different side of him on this cool jazz effort, which favors the sensuous over the abstract. Forming an intimate, drumless trio with pianist Darrell Grant and bassist Bill Douglass, Matheny is at his most lyrical on Marian McPartland's "Twilight World" and sentimental, personal versions of "Corcovado," "When You Wish Upon a Star" and "Stardust." Meanwhile, "Geneva" and "Whisper, Muse" are gently reflective Matheny originals that work quite well in this romantic setting. But one can't say that about Matheny's Caribbean-flavored "Soca Nova," an uptempo tune that is out of place on this album. Although enjoyable, "Soca Nova" is much too exuberant for Starlight Café and should have been saved for a more appropriate album. But the inclusion of "Soca Nova" is the only real mistake Matheny makes on Starlight Café, which proved to be a delightful surprise.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson