A Journey Off the Beaten Path
With his debut solo piano CD “Small Steps” in 2000, St. Paul Jazz pianist Larry McDonough began his exploration of re-harmonizing familiar jazz and popular pieces with the modal structures of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock and the introspection of Bill Evans. McDonough used this as a starting point for his continuing journey to re-meter music in the odd meters of 5/4 and 7/4, following the lead of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond in “Time Out.” His next CD, a 2002 demo entitled “Larry McDonough and Off Beat: Live, Cooking at the Dakota,” featured the first incarnation of his group Off Beat, performing Cantaloupe Island by Hancock in 7/4 time, Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber recast as a jazz standard with trumpet and sax counterpoint in the style of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and Take the 5A Train in 5/4 , moving between straight and swing rhythms. 2003 brought McDonough’s second solo solo CD, “Tuscarora”, with one vocal, recorded live on KUMD Radio in Duluth, MN. He dedicated it to the late Minnesota Senator Paul and Sheila Wellstone, and split the proceeds with Wellstone Action. McDonough moved his re-harmonizing and re-metering to religious and historical pieces. Amazing Grace started in the traditional major 3/4, and moved to a slow minor 5/4. An intense version of My Favorite Things in 5/4 time followed, along with a vocal ballad treatment of We Shall Overcome dedicated to lost friends. The Star Spangled Banner done as a jazz standard rounded out the trip.
A Rose for Two
Drummer Chaz Draper joined McDonough in Off Beat in 2002,
with “A Rose for Two” being their first public duo performance,
recorded live at the new Weber Music Hall on the Duluth Campus
based on melodies written by children
software developed by drummer
Rosie wrote the A section melody,
Moffatt’s children Patrick and Jennifer
wrote the B section melody, and
McDonough layered them over
shifting minor harmonies and 5/4 meter.
For more information on Fingersteps,
Next is a solo vocal version of The Star Spangled Banner, done as a jazz standard, as McDonough first recorded it instrumentally on “Tuscarora: Short Stories for Jazz Piano.” My Favorite Things continues McDonough’s 5/4 experiment with the Coltrane classic, also first recorded by McDonough on solo piano on “Tuscarora: Short Stories for Jazz Piano,” and ending with an intense Draper solo over McDonough’s bass repetition. McDonough finishes with Lady Day. Minnesota poet Frank Reed wrote the lyrics based on his perceptions of Billy Holiday’s thoughts late in life, inspiring McDonough’s introspective ballad moving between eerie minor and major images of regret and optimism.
2. Star Spangled Banner in 4/4 (Key, Arr. McDonough, LM Jazz, ASCAP) 2:23
3. My Favorite Things in 5/4 (Rogers and Hammerstein,
Williamson Music Co., ASCAP) 5:09
4. Lady Day (McDonough and Reed, LM Jazz, ASCAP) 4:17