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Frank Macchia with The Prague Orchestra: Landscapes

Dan McClenaghan By

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Listening to the opening notes on Frank Macchia's Landscapes, one can't help but hear a Stan Getz vibe blowing into play. It's not the Getz of the bossa nova sounds with Antonio Carlos Jobim, or his boppish mainstream work, but rather the Stan Getz of Focus (Verve Records, 1961), with the tenor saxophonist improvising over a string section.

While Focus teamed Getz with composer/arranger Eddie Sauter's tunes and charts, Landscapes features tenor saxophonist Frank Macchia blowing beautiful improvisations in front of his own arrangements—with a smooth, Getzian tone—joined by the woodwinds, strings and harps of the Prague Orchestra, conducted by Adam Klemens.

Macchia chose traditional or public domain tunes to open and close the set—three before and three after his six-part "Landscapes Suite: for Saxophone and Orchestra." The results stand with the very best of past "with strings" jazz outings: alto saxophonist Art Pepper's Winter Moon (Galaxy, 1981); trumpeter Chet Baker's Chet Baker & Strings (Columbia Records, 1954); trumpeter Wallace Roney's under-appreciated Misteriosos (Warner Brother, 1994); and, of course, Charlie Parker's Charlie Parker With Strings (Verve, 1952).

Macchia's choices of traditional and public domain tunes are unusual: "The Sidewalks of New York," "Shenandoah" and "Down in the Valley" to start, with "Deep River," "Avalon," and "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" closing the show. The arranger's new charts for these old gems shines them up and has all the facets flashing in a modern light, while his masterful "Landscape Suite" has an expansive, intricately lush and lovely atmosphere.

The jazz and strings combination seems to be a love it or hate it affair. For those listeners who have dug their heels in against the genre, Landscapes probably won't change their minds, though it should. Art Pepper said, of his Winter Moon "...if somebody doesn't like it...well, they don't know what to listen for."

The same could be said for Landscapes, an excellent saxophone and strings affair.

Track Listing: The Sidewalks of New York; Shenandoah; Down In The Valley; Landscapes Suite - for Saxophone & Orchestra: I.Golden Fields, II.Desert Heat, III.River Rapids, IV.Arctic Chill, V.Jungle Life, VI.Forest Twilight; Deep River; Avalon; Way Down Yonder In New Orleans.

Personnel: Frank Macchia: composer, tenor saxophone; The Prague Orchestra: Adam Klemens: conductor; orchestra personnel unlisted.

Title: Landscapes | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Cacophony

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