Guitarist Doug MacDonald gets down to basics on his seventh album as leader, shepherding a seasoned quartet through its paces in an amiable session that swings gently but firmly from start to finish. MacDonald’s mellow sound is underscored by an unblemished technique that he never uses to overwhelm the listener, seldom submitting an unnecessary note and letting the quiet spaces speak for themselves. His comrades–in–arms, pianist Art Hillery, bassist John Heard (also responsible for the impressive cover art) and drummer Johnny Kirkwood, are comparably laid–back except when the need for acceleration becomes evident, as on Blue Mitchell’s “Blue Capers” or Sweets Edison’s “A Little Tutu,” on which everyone puts the pedal to the metal. Otherwise, the program consists of an astute blend of standards (“Until the Real Thing Comes Along,” “What’s New,” “Thinking of You,” “I Thought About You”), Jazz–centered themes (Milt Jackson’s “Bluesology,” Jobim’s “So Danco Samba,” Dodge Bolton’s “Bolton’s Bossa”) and bright originals by Hillery (“Emma Lu”) and MacDonald (“Ori’s Theme”). As is true of all superlative Jazz ensembles, the quartet makes playing them seem deceptively easy — but never unexciting. MacDonald is a remarkably accomplished player, his partners no less so. Easily recommended.
Contact:Sea Breeze Records, P.O. Box 1910, Pismo Beach, CA 93448–1910. Phone 818–489–2055.
Personnel: Doug MacDonald, guitar; Art Hillery, piano; John Heard, bass; Johnny Kirkwood, drums.