Here is a guitar-led quartet with a couple of fresh angles. First, instead of using a piano, guitarist Doug MacDonald
has enlisted vibraphonist Noel Okimoto
to provide the harmonic counterpoint; and second, Philadelphia-born MacDonald has temporarily forsaken his decades-long base in Southern California to return "home" to Hawaii, where he began his professional career performing with Trummy Young
, Gabe Baltazar
and Del Courtney.
What is not new but nonetheless welcome is MacDonald's superior command of his instrument, using clean, angular and always engaging lines that leave the listener wishing for more of the same. He is also a splendid writer, as he proves on the buoyant "Cat City Samba" (based on the standard "Out of Nowhere") and the rhythmic "Bossa Don." MacDonald's supporting castOkimoto, bassist Dean Taba
, drummer Darryl Pellegrini
play their parts quite well in a session that was recorded in front of an appreciative audience at Hawaii Public Radio in Honolulu.
MacDonald's originals are chaperoned by the standards "My Shining Hour," "Star Eyes" and "Stranger in Paradise," Oscar Pettiford
's "Blues in the Closet" and Lester Young
's "Lester Leaps In." The mood is upbeat throughout, and McDonald and his mates give every melody its due before entering the realm of spontaneity. Even though Okimoto would never be mistaken for Terry Gibbs
or Joe Locke
, he is a first-rate technician who gets the job done with no fuss and swings as hard as needed. Taba and Pellegrini are not showcased as often but make the most of every opportunity, blowing with earnestness and perception.
It can be affirmed without question that MacDonald's return to Hawaii was a terrific idea. Having said that, it should be further noted that listening to MacDonald perform, regardless of locale or circumstances, is also a terrific idea.
My Shining Hour; Cat City Samba; Blues in the Closet; Star Eyes; Bossa Don; Lester Leaps
In; Stranger in Paradise.