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Frank Macchia: Son Of Folk Songs For Jazzers

Dan McClenaghan By

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Saxophonist Frank Macchia keeps racking up the Grammy nominations. He got his third nod for the award with his big band interpretation of "Skip to My Lou," from his Folk Songs for Jazzers (Cacophony, 2010), following up his recognition for Emotions (Cacophony, 2007) and Landscapes (Cacophony 2008).

In addition to his work in producing these excellent CD offerings, Macchia also works extensively in film and TV, as one of those musicians many have heard without knowing who it was they were hearing, on television shows including Lost, Desperate Housewives and Murder She Wrote, as well as over forty big screen movies.

On the jazz side of his career, he's on a roll with his reinventions of familiar traditional tunes, offering up Son of Folk Songs for Jazzers.

This may be the only jazz CD ever to open with "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," and it does so with rich majesty. Macchia is a master arranger. The tune begins with a panorama of reeds, stars blinking on in the night sky on single, succinct piano notes, before the tune shifts into a danceable Latin groove.

Macchia takes things into the dim streets and smoky back rooms with "Careless Love." The arrangement staggers, wobbles and wails as Ellis Hall sits in to contribute a down-low vocal that bumps up against the tangy sting of Grant Geissman's bluesy electric guitar. On "Silver Dagger," an American folk ballad traced back to the 19th century British Isles, vocalist Tierney Sutton guests, her voice suffused with a charming guilelessness, immersed in a gentle, reedy arrangement that circles her like a spirit wind.

"Billy Boy," a tune which gets covered in jazz more often than the others here, features Alex Iles's stately trombone declarations, that devolve to growls and rasps, augmented by the dark, dense turbulence of Macchia's arrangement, which gives the tune a very ominous mood. The storytelling mode, from the dark side, continues with "Frankie and Johnny." Jay Mason's wandering baritone sax and Kevin Porter's trombone tell the tale inside the shifting breeze of Macchia's shadowy arrangement.

Macchia's done it before, and he does it again, serving up an unlikely bunch of traditional songs for a jazz treatment, infusing them with Latin vibes and funk, New Orleans swing, and big band grandeur, all with energy and uncommon style.

Track Listing: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star; Careless Love; Three Jazzy Blind Mice; Itsy Bitsy Spider; Work Songs Medley; Silver Dagger; Three Cool Blind Mice; Cindy/Li'l Liza Jane; Billie Boy; Frankie and Johnny; This Old Man; The Boating Medley.

Personnel: Valerie King: piccolo, flute, bass flute; Sal Lozano: alto sax, alto flute, bass flute, clarinet, contra alto clarinet; Bob Shepard: soprano sax, tenor sax, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet; Frank Macchia: tenor sax,flute, bass flute, clarinet, alto clarinet contra bass clarinet, melodica, organ, vocal (11); Jay Mason: baritone sax; soprano sax, bass flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, contra bass clarinet, English horn; Wayne Bergeron: trumpet, flugelhorn; Alex Iles: trombone, baritone horn; Kevin Poter: trombone, bass trombone, baritone horn; Bil Reichenbach: trombone, baritone horn,bass trumpet, tuba; Tom Ranier: piano; Gram Geissman:: electric guitar: Trey Henry: bass; Peter Erskine: drums, motivation; Michael Hatfield: vibraphone, bass marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, tamborine, shaker; Tierney Sutton: vocal (6); Ellis Hall: vocal (2).

Title: Son Of Folk Songs For Jazzers | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Cacophony

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