Question: What do Bill Evans, Chet Baker, Paris, Miles Davis, Tony Bennett, Spinal Tap, Dave Brubeck, Sting, Led Zeppelin, Prince, children with special needs, Eric Clapton, and odd meters have in common?
Answer: The Larry McDonough Quartet “Alice in Stonehenge and other AcoustElectric Adventures” Two CD Set
The Larry McDonough Quartet
Larry McDonough, piano, keyboards, vocals, compositions, and arrangements
Richard Terrill, tenor and soprano saxes, and original poetry
Greg Stinson, acoustic and electric bass
Dean White, drums
Guests: Steve Kenny, flumpet
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Review from Andrea Canter, JazzInk
Fans of Larry McDonough will find no significant disconnect between the two discs comprising Alice in Stonehenge. Those encountering him for the first time who are generally drawn to acoustic music will likely be surprised by how much they enjoy the melodicism and energy of the electric disc. And vice-versa: Those generally favoring electronic pop and rock will find themselves drawn to the romantic verve of the acoustic set. It's trite to say there's "something for everyone." More accurately, everything here is likely to appeal to music lovers of all persuasions, because every track brings a timeless tune delivered by steadfast talents--acoustic or electronic. The 2-volume title is a mash-up of the first tracks from each--Larry's take on Bill Evans' "Alice in Wonderland" and his re-arrangement of Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge." And on each disc Larry draws upon his recent shows--tributes to Chet Baker, Miles Davis, and Bill Evans and Tony Bennett, as well to the rock icons of Sting, Clapton, Spinal Tap, and more. Disc 1, like live shows, also includes the jazz-themed poetry of saxophonist Richard Terrill.
Jazz has long been Larry's wheelhouse, be it a majestic rearrangement of "Alice in Wonderland" that upgrades Alice to royalty or a fresh take on Chet Baker's "The Thrill Is Gone" where, without imitating Baker's voice, Larry evokes the pathos of a man who has lost more than the "thrill" of a relationship; Steve Kenny's trumpet parallels the singer's angst. Jazz treatment of "La Marseillaise?" Adding accordion to his arsenal, Larry's arrangement conveys that sense of swing despite the song's majestic, patriotic bent. Yet there is still a tinge of sadness, elegy reflecting the world's reaction to the recent Paris attacks as well as the song's origin as not only an anthem of national pride but a call to arms and resistance. Larry takes no fewer liberties on the electric set, reconfiguring time on all tracks, perhaps most surprisingly on Brubeck's already fractured "Take 5" (now "Take 7") and including a wide range of influences, from Prince ("The Question of U") to the melody fragments from individuals with disabilities, originally the Fingersteps and now the SpecAbilities project ("Funkabilities").
Unplug or plug in. It's pure Larry McDonough either way.
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Larry McDonough Quartet, Alice in Stonehenge and other AcoustElectric Adventures
Sound Clips at CD Baby
Disc 1 - Acoustic
1. Alice In Wonderland
2. Chet Baker
3. The Thrill Is Gone
4. La Marseillaise
5. Tango para Maria Luiza
6. Listening to Miles Davis
7. Flamenco Sketches
8. You Must Believe in Spring
Disc 2 - Electric
2. Take 7
3. Sheʼs Too Good for Me
5. The Question of U2
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$30 for 1 Two CD Set
$50 for 2 copies
Available from Larry McDonough Jazz
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Liner Notes by Larry McDonough
I always have been a fan of both acoustic and electric jazz. Most of my recordings, however, have been in the acoustic tradition. I thought it was time to present both, together. Alice in Stonehenge and other AcoustElectric Adventures is the first studio recording of the new Larry McDonough Quartet (LMQ), with bassist Greg Stinson and drummer Dean White joining my long-time collaborator Richard Terrill on saxes, along with guest trumpeter Steve Kenny on the Chet Baker and Miles Davis tracks.
Bill Evans was one of my earliest inspirations, both in how he played but also how he imagined trio improvisation. Alice In Wonderland is based on his classic recording, arranged slightly differently with a introduction vamp following the solo piano introduction that also serves as the interlude between solos, and the melody moving between the bass, piano, sax, and unison.
Saxophonist Richard Terrill also is an award-winning author and poet. He contributed poetry to our earlier duo recording, Solitude, poetry in jazz. Here he adds his poem Chet Baker about the troubled trumpet player and singer's life before we launch into The Thrill Is Gone. We have performed a show of Chet's music for several years, and it was time to record one of the songs. I chose this because it is less well known than Chet's signature piece, My Funny Valentine, and the lyrics connect well with Chet's life. Steve Kenny provides the trumpet side of Chet, performing on his flumpet, a combination trumpet and flugelhorn.
My wife, flutist Carol Bergquist, and I have visited and performed in France several times. Carol speaks French and first traveled there as a child. I wrote this arrangement of La Marseillaise following the first of several attacks on France that touched us personally. The use of the piece in the movie Casablanca showed how patriotic it could be. I wrote it as a waltz and rehamonized it to feel more like the French jazz waltzes of Reinhardt and Grappelli, and added accordion to complete the feel.
My aunt, Mary Louise Kennedy, was my family inspiration in music. She was the only other professional musician in my small family, teaching piano for many years in Iowa City. I watched her teach when I was little. When she knew her time in life was short, she asked if I would perform at her service. I wrote Tango para Maria Luiza that day, a tango with classical harmonies, in 9/4 time divided between 4 and 5. It remains one of my favorite compositions. We added strings to complement the classical sound that she loved.
Richard wrote the poem Listening to Miles Davis as a reflection of how the music of Miles affected him, then and now. We follow it with Flamenco Sketches from our Kind of Blue show because it is the least performed and least known piece from the recording. We stayed true to the arrangement and the feel of the piece with Steve, Richard, and me doing our best to channel Miles, Trane, and Bill.
Much of the acoustic CD is connected to Bill Evans, from Alice in Wonderland to his associations with Chet and Miles. We finish the disk with You Must Believe in Spring from our show that celebrates the recordings he made with Tony Bennett from 1975 to 1977. It is challenging for me to cover Bill and Tony at the same time, even though the piece appears to move slowly. For the close listener, the piece modulates up a half step halfway through, modulates down a full step at the end of each chorus, and then modulates up a half-step to return to the original key.
We begin the electric CD with Stonehenge, the classic Spinal Tap piece. I kept the synthesized metal feel but arranged it into 5/4, with a free section in the middle, before the synth and sax solos.
LMQ has been playing in unconventional odd meters for many years, so I thought it would be fun take a classic Dave Brubeck odd meter piece and place it in a different meter. The result is Take 7, based on Take 5 but in 7/4 time with a smooth jazz Reggae feel. It really grooves.
It was Sting's use of odd meters on many of his recordings that got me thinking of playing more in odd meters almost 20 years ago. His recording Ten Summoners Tales has several tunes in odd meters. One that is not is She s Too Good for Me, which he presented as a burning rock and roll tune. I arranged it as a burning bebop tune in 5/4, after a subdued introduction. I always have loved jazz groups that take rock tunes and make jazz out of them, like The Bad Plus and Modeski, Martin and Woods. For Led Zeppelin's Kashmir, I kept part of the original tune in place, like the beginning and early verses, but added an ECM inspired fusion waltz for the electric piano and sax solos. Dean's drum solo is over the screaming section from the original, and Greg's bass solo is over the string section from the original. We end with a drum solo over bars decreasing in length by one beat per bar, starting with 8/4 and ending with 1/4.
The death of Minnesotan Prince prompted me to add a Prince piece. I wanted to avoid iconic pieces, so I looked for something less known. The original Question of U is a dirty blues waltz that I arranged into 5/4, with an introduction from Paisley Park and an ending from Sometimes It Snows in April.
I have written several tunes based on short melody fragments written by children with special needs, including my daughter Rosie, recorded on my earlier CDs Simple Gifts and Solitude, poetry in jazz. The project is called SpecAbilities. The fragments often do not have a tonal center and drive my writing of harmonic structures that are unconventional. Funkability is no exception. We present it as another ECM-influenced jazz funk, this time in 7/4.
We end the CD with the classic Eric Clapton piece Layla first performed by Derek and the Dominos. The difference is we present it without guitars, rather as an organ-driven jazz waltz with solos from all members. We finish with the rock ballad vamp, with piano and organ replacing the guitars; true to the original but, as always, different.
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Recorded in 2016 and mixed and mastered by Steve Kaul, Wild Sound, Minneapolis, MN
Art by Eric Hanson
Photographs by Andrea Canter
CD design by Larry McDonough
CD duplication by Quick Turn Duplication
Produced by Larry McDonough for LM Jazz
© 2017 Larry McDonough and LM Jazz
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The Larry McDonough Quartet
Larry McDonough is a St. Paul jazz pianist and singer, performing around the world and recording with his group the Larry McDonough Quartet as well as solo, and in duos and trios. He has performed with legendary saxophonist and composer Benny Golson, Trombonist Fred Wesley, and trumpeter Duane Eubanks, as well as a who’s who of local jazz artists, and was inducted into the Minnesota Rock Country Hall of Fame for his work in the group Danny’s Reasons. He has released eight CDs and DVDs as a leader, including “Simple Gifts,” which reached number 29 on the CMJ Jazz Chart and has been played on hundreds of stations around the country and throughout the world. He also is a lawyer and law professor selected by William Mitchell College of Law as one of “100 Who Made a Difference” over the 100-year history of the school. Larry directs pro bono legal services for the poor at Dorsey & Whitney.
Richard Terrill, sax player and Minnesota State University Mankato English Professor, received the Minnesota Book Award for Poetry for his poetry compilation “Coming Late to Rachmaninoff” (University of Tampa Press, 2003). Richard has been performing with Larry McDonough since December 2001. He also has performed with guitarist Jim McGuire and with Chaz Draper’s Uptown Jazz Quartet. As a college student, Richard was a member of the award-winning University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Jazz Ensemble and performed with later-to-be Pat Metheny keyboardist Lyle Mays in the Lyle Mays Quartet, winner of small group honors at the Midwest College Jazz Festival. He has also worked with pianist Geoff Keezer. Richard teaches creative writing at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Bassist Greg Stinson plays in several bands around the Twin Cities. He has been the bass player in the Century College Jazz Ensemble for more than 25 years. He also plays in the CC Septet, Shorn Hortz Quintet, Paul Berger Trio, the St. Croix Jazz Ensemble, and regularly subs with the Nova Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, Classic Big Band, and Cedar Avenue Big Band. Greg spent many years playing saxophones, guitar, bass, and vocals in jazz/rock and variety bands in the area. He is an active composer/arranger with jazz charts in the books of the Century Band, Nova, CC Septet, and others. He has also written a number of choral arrangements and compositions for school and church groups. Greg was a band and choir director in public and private schools before changing to his current career in telecommunications technology. The Larry McDonough Quartet performs Greg Stinson compositions from the Nova Contemporary Jazz Orchestra recording ADance to Be-bop.
Dean White grew up in Superior, Wisconsin, and played in various working bands while attending the University of Wisconsin, Superior. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in percussion performance, he moved to Hollywood, California, to attend Musicians Institute College of Contemporary Music. Half-way through the first year, Dean was offered a main showroom gig at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas. He was the first drummer in the Legends In Concert Show that still performs in various incarnations across the country today. He left Las Vegas to join Tony Axtell and Toshi Hinata in Tokyo to write and play original music. Since settling back in the Twin Cities, Dean has performed with many groups, including Good, the Bad and the Funky; the Autobody Experience; Century Big Band; Nova Jazz; Big Time Jazz Orchestra; the Shorn Hortz jazz quintet; Power of 10; Jack Knife and the Sharps; Tubby Esquire; Hennessy Brothers jazz; and many others. He has also studied privately with Gordy Knudtson and his Open/Close hand technique. Dean feels blessed to be part of the rich music scene in the Twin Cities.
Guest Steve Kenny studied at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Among many projects, he has performed with Pete Whitman's Departure Point, The Five with Dave Karr, What Would Monk Do?, and the Cedar Avenue Big Band. He is best known as co-founder of the Illicit Sextet, an ensemble popular in the 1990s before taking a long hiatus and now back in action with a new CD released in 2013 and a main stage appearance at the Twin Cities Jazz festival. In addition to heading the Wednesday night early show at the Artists' Quarter for five years, Steve has received a Minnesota Music Award, West Bank School of Music Jazz Composer award, and multiple honors as Best Jazz Trumpet at the Eau Claire Jazz Festival. With support from a state arts board grant, he has curated the "All Originals" jazz series at Studio Z, the weekly Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog series, Jazz at the Nicollet and later Reverie, and now Friday Night Jazz at Jazz Central.