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Doug MacDonald: Big Band Extravaganza

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Doug MacDonald: Big Band Extravaganza
Pardon the superlative, but what a terrific album! Extravanga marks the debut of guitarist Doug MacDonald's seventeen-member Jazz Orchestra, and he has guaranteed that it swings with gusto by writing nine perceptive and luminous charts that are sure to bring out the best in any ensemble, especially one as well-equipped as this. During his decades-long career as one of the West Coast's foremost guitarists, MacDonald has recorded fifteen albums with groups ranging from solo to duo, quartet to brass and woodwind ensemble, but this is the first excursion as leader of his Jazz Orchestra, which was formed in early 2020.

MacDonald has certainly made the most of his inaugural enterprise, enlisting a number of the Los Angeles area's leading jazz musicians to bring his splendid compositions and arrangements to life. The incomparable Carl Saunders is in the trumpet section, the irrepressible tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard and ingenious alto saxophonist Kim Richmond among the reeds, while the rhythm section (Chuck Berghofer on bass; Paul Kreibich on drums; Bill Cunliffe and Andy Langham sharing keyboard duties) could not be in better hands. At the center of it all is MacDonald who not only enhances the rhythm but solos admirably on all but one number.

The orchestra comes out swinging on "Toluca Lake Jazz," which, if it isn't based on Ray Noble's "Cherokee," should be. The animated solos are by MacDonald, Richmond and trombonist Ivan Malespin. The tempo—but not the heat—slackens on "Rashomon," which features Richmond, MacDonald and baritone saxophonist Tim McKay. Saunders takes a typically jaw- dropping solo on the bluesy "Luces Azules," with others by MacDonald, Berghofer, tenor saxophonist Glen Berger and an unnamed trombonist. MacDonald is showcased on the easy-going "Aventura en Triadas," after which Woodard takes the first of his three solos (with MacDonald and trumpeter Aaron Janik) on "Desert Jazz," an old-school swinger that is nowhere near as arid as the name suggests.

Cunliffe, MacDonald, and Alex Budman on alto saxophone are the soloists on the impassioned "Luz de Amor," Woodard, MacDonald and Langham on the groovy "De Ha," Woodard by himself on the lone standard, the Gershwin brothers' "But Not for Me." MacDonald, Langham, Kreibich and trombonist Les Benedict sparkle on the shuffling, trombone-centered "Minor Mess," MacDonald, Saunders and Cunliffe on the breezy and swinging finale, "Ya Know Bill." For those who may have forgotten how big bands used to excite their audiences, here is a timely reminder, courtesy of the ever-adventurous Doug MacDonald and his remarkable Jazz Orchestra.

Track Listing

Toluca Lake Jazz; Rashomon; Luces Azules; Aventura en Triadas; Desert Jazz; Luz de Amour; De Ha; But Not for Me; Minor Mess; Ya Know Bill.

Personnel

Dan Fornero
trumpet
Aaron Janik
trumpet
Kim Richmond
saxophone
Rickey Woodard
saxophone, tenor
Glen Berger
woodwinds
Tim McKay
saxophone, baritone
Ira Nepus
trombone
Les Benedict
trombone
Ivan Malespin
trombone
Rich Bullock
trombone, bass
Chuck Berghofer
bass, acoustic

Album information

Title: Big Band Extravaganza | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Self Produced


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