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Frank Macchia

Born and raised in San Francisco, CA., Frank started on the clarinet at the age of ten years old. Soon afterward he began studies on bassoon, saxophone and flute. By the age of fourteen he began studying composition, writing jazz and classical pieces for his high school band and orchestra and for jazz ensembles that rehearsed at the local union hall, including trumpeter Mike Vax's Big Band.

In 1975-76 Frank wrote jazz/classical hybrid works that were performed by the San Francisco Symphony and local professional jazz musicians at the Summer Music Workshop Programs, and he composed and conducted an orchestral overture for his high school graduation ceremony. During this time period he also performed and arranged music for contemporary dance bands in the Bay Area.

In 1976 Frank attended Berklee College of Music, studying woodwinds with Joseph Viola, Joe Allard, Steve Grossman and composition/arranging with Herb Pomeroy, Phil Wilson, Greg Hopkins, Tony Texiera, and Ken Pullig. From 1976-80 he performed and composed for the top student ensembles as well as performing with his own ensembles. He received a National Endowment Grant for the Arts to compose a 90 minute continuous jazz/ classical suite for large ensemble. He also won Down Beat magazine's DB award for original big band composition in 1979.

After graduating with a degree in traditional composition, Frank taught at Berklee at the tender age of 20, as well as performed throughout the New England area with his 8-piece fusion group, 'Booga-Booga'. In 1981 Frank moved back to the San Francisco area where he continued working as a musician and composer/arranger over the next ten years, performing concerts with such artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Rita Moreno, Tony Bennett, Jack Jones, Clare Fischer, Chuck Mangione, and the Temptations, to name a few. He performed with local groups such as The Bay Area Jazz Composers Orchestra, Mike Vax's Great American Jazz Band, Royal Street, the Dick Bright Orchestra and the Melotones. He also led his own original groups, including The Gleets, Desperate Character and The Frankie Maximum Band. In 1989 he recorded Introducing Frankie Maximum, an eclectic CD that showcased original material in a variety of styles, from new wave to polka. He followed that with the CD Frankie Maximum Goes Way-er Out West, a wild romp through traditional cowboy folksongs, done with new treatments (Ringo as a hip-hop jazz tune!?). This 1991 album received much critical praise including being named one of the top ten albums of the year by the Oakland Tribune

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Review by Michael Jackson
March, 2013

This is the sophomore outing for California saxophonist Frank Macchia's Swamp Thang sextet, and artist Guy Vasilovich has created another terrifying cover painting, satisfying Macchia's macabre sense of humor (he produced a series of audio horror stories titled "Little Evil Things" back in the late '90s). "Thumpety Thump Thump" is a terror that awaits many of us since it refers to a heart complaint brought on by indulgent eating, as Macchia half apologetically recounts from personal experience. It fits the gumbo theme of New Orleans with funk and second line fl avors ostensible on "Zig Zag" (a nod to Zigaboo Modeliste?), a slow cooked feature for guitarist Ken Rosser, and "Jiggle Wiggle," which boasts more whipcrack playing from drummer Frank Briggs. Macchia has scored signifi cant fi lm music, is clearly idiomatically eclectic and has plenty of pull with crack L.A. studio musicians. He borrows Bo Diddley's patent riff, taking it into the fourth dimension à la Eddie Harris with quartal harmony on "Diddley Vs Spock." "Groovin' For Daze" kicks off with Steve Cropper-like guitar licks exhuming the heyday of the Memphis Stax sound, Rosser nicely borrowing elements of Macchia's solo for the beginning of his own. "Shimmy Go-Bop" is in 15/8 and has some effective counterpoint in the arrangement before the unison fi nale. The lugubrious bass intro to "Red Light" suggests a damp brothel on Hamburg's Reeperbahn, but then the tune kicks into an easy lilt recalling Joe Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy." "Falling Off The Wagon" has more urgency with Macchia pumping baritone riffs against the horn line and James Brown styled background chank heralding another Rosser shred. The enterprising leader overdubs fl utes on "Walkin' The Hog" while John Rosenberg fl ips to clavinet. The dense funk of "Three Leg Pony" regurgitates phrases, Macchia continually spicing the pot.

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Primary Instrument

Composer / conductor


Los Angeles

Willing to teach

Advanced only


Professor at Berklee College of Music 1980-1981- taught arranging and harmony Will teach arranging, composition, orchestration @ $100 per hour lesson in Los Angeles Area - private instruction focused on students' needs and desires. Analysis of Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, Thad Jones, as well as Stravinsky, Bartok, orchestration techniques.

Michael Brecker
saxophone, tenor
Don Ellis
Gil Evans
composer / conductor
Thad Jones
Pat Metheny
Chris Potter
Frank Zappa
guitar, electric


Album Discography


From: Rhythm Abstraction: Azure
By Frank Macchia

Piglets Bouncing On A Trampoline

From: Rhythm Kaleidoscope
By Frank Macchia

I'm So Damn Mad!

From: Grease Mechanix
By Frank Macchia


From: Frank Macchia's Swamp Thang
By Frank Macchia

I've Been Working on the Railroad

From: Folk Songs For Jazzers
By Frank Macchia

Air Mail Special

From: Saxolollapalooza
By Frank Macchia

Way Down Yonder In New Orleans

From: Landscapes
By Frank Macchia



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