437

Frank Macchia: Saxolollapalooza

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

Sign in to view read count
Frank Macchia: Saxolollapalooza Way in the background on some classic big band recordings, there is a high-pitched aural glow, a sustained, ethereal, almost liturgical hum coming from somewhere in the reeds section. Duke Ellington's "There Shall Be No Night," from the great Blanton/Webster Band box set (Bluebird, 1990), has it. Partly it's the recording technology of the time, sufficiently imperfect that your brain suspects it's hearing things that aren't there; partly it's the art of the arranger (Billy Strayhorn, of course, in the Ellington example), providing things that are there. It's one of the most transcendent sounds in jazz.

Woodwind multi-instrumentalist Frank Macchia's new saxophone sextet plus drums produces that sound on a couple of its slower- paced tracks, and on this brightly recorded session, it doesn't have anything to do with 1940s recording technology. That is one among many reasons to admire this record.

Another is Macchia's magisterial (and Grammy-winning) arrangements. Macchia has of late been arranging jazz chestnuts for the symphony orchestra, most recently on Landscapes (Cacophony, 2007). His gift for eliciting new harmonic details from familiar material is apparent in many numbers here, particularly the all-too-familiar "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Down By The Riverside."

Macchia is, furthermore, a fine tenor saxophonist with a decidedly R&B bent, an asset that makes more sense in this honking setting than with the symphony orchestras of earlier records: his unaccompanied, bluesy wail at the beginning of "Chariot" is just impeccable.

The leader's solos are generally great, but he does not hog the limelight. Among other standouts, Eric Marienthal has a fine alto moment on a lovely "Creole Love Song," while baritone saxophonist Gene Cipriano's turn on "My One and Only Love" may be the record's finest moment. It is surely the best track, a sublime arrangement that recalls the emotional depths the World Saxophone Quartet brought to "Lush Life" (from World Saxophone Quartet Plays Duke Ellington, Nonesuch, 1986), and these guys bring two more horns to the equation than did the WSQ.

Those who know drummer Peter Erskine from his long stint with Weather Report may be surprised by the suppleness with which he digs into a vigorous New Orleans second-line rhythm.

Saxolollapalooza will appeal mainly to devotees of pre-Parker jazz; Macchia and company are not trying to be hip like The Bad Plus or [em]. But the record's appeal may indeed be broader. With a set list that would sit well with the moldy figs—Al Hirt, Duke Ellington, "Down By The Riverside" and Dixieland classics—diehard traditionalists would remain nonplussed by a Michael Jackson tune, the reconfiguration of "That's A-Plenty" as a samba, or the smart funkification of Benny Goodman's "Air Mail Special."


Track Listing: Air Mail Special; Down By the Riverside; My One and Only Love; Working Day and Night; Java; Caravan; Shortening Bread; Bluesalicious!; Creole Love Song; Work Song; Swing Low, Sweet Chariot; That's A-Plenty.

Personnel: Frank Macchia: tenor and baritone saxophones, flute, alto flute, clarinet, contrabass clarinet; Eric Marienthal: alto and soprano saxophones, flute; Sal Lozano: alto saxophone, piccolo, clarinet; Bob Sheppard: tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute; Gene Cipriano: baritone saxophone, clarinet, flute; Jay Mason: bass saxophone, bass clarinet; Peter Erskine: drums, percussion.

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


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Ballet: The Music Of Michael Gibbs CD/LP/Track Review Ballet: The Music Of Michael Gibbs
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 23, 2017
Read Float The Edge CD/LP/Track Review Float The Edge
by John Sharpe
Published: July 23, 2017
Read Resonance CD/LP/Track Review Resonance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 23, 2017
Read Black Focus CD/LP/Track Review Black Focus
by Rokas Kucinskas
Published: July 23, 2017
Read Birdhoused CD/LP/Track Review Birdhoused
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 22, 2017
Read "Words And Music" CD/LP/Track Review Words And Music
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 30, 2017
Read "Tipico" CD/LP/Track Review Tipico
by James Nadal
Published: January 12, 2017
Read "Resting in a Fold of the Fog" CD/LP/Track Review Resting in a Fold of the Fog
by John Eyles
Published: March 16, 2017
Read "Invisible Hand" CD/LP/Track Review Invisible Hand
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "The Seasons" CD/LP/Track Review The Seasons
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 11, 2017
Read "Beninghove's Hangmen Plays Led Zeppelin" CD/LP/Track Review Beninghove's Hangmen Plays Led Zeppelin
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: March 23, 2017

Support All About Jazz: MAKE A PURCHASE  

Support our sponsor

Upgrade Today!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.

Donate!