2013 Reviews for
Angels, Kings, My Favorite Things

Pamela Espeland, Minn Post
Dan Emerson, St. Paul Pioneer Press
Tom Surowicz, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Andrea Canter, Jazz Police
Gina Purcell, Sun Post
Jessica Bies,  St. Peter Herald
Tanner Kent,  The Mankato Free Press

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Pamela Espeland, Minn Post
December 6, 2013

Larry McDonough Quartet, “Angels, Kings, My Favorite Things.” Let’s just say it: “My Favorite Things” is a cute song, but wimpy. Whiskers on kittens, warm woolen mittens, yawn. Pianist, composer, bandleader and vocalist McDonough gives it a kick in the pants, turns Richard Terrill loose on some Trane-ish saxophony and tells a different story. His imaginative arrangements transform all of the familiar tunes on his latest recording, making this the holiday CD to reach for when you’re tired of the same-old. “Little Drummer Boy” with no drums? Fine with us. And it’s good to hear “Ode to Joy” in a jazzy new version. Thursday, Dec. 19 at the Artists’ Quarter. 8 p.m., $5 cover. Also Sunday, Dec. 22 at Icehouse. 7:30 p.m., $5 cover.


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Dan Emerson, St. Paul Pioneer Press
December 12, 2013

Larry McDonough Quartet
Thursday: It's a CD-release party for St. Paul-based pianist-composer Larry McDonough's new yule-centric release, "Angels, Kings, My Favorite Things." Seasonal tracks include "Jingle Bells" reimagined as a jazz ballad, what may be the first drummer-less version of "Little Drummer Boy" and a Bill Evans-influenced "Ode to Joy." McDonough's co-creators are tenor and soprano saxophonist Richard Terrill, drummer Chaz Draper and bassist Craig Matarrese. 8 p.m.; Artists' Quarter, 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul; $5; 651-292-1359 or artistsquarter.com.


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Tom Surowicz, Minneapolis Star Tribune
December 15, 2013

Fans of underrated Twin Cities jazz pianist Larry McDonough know better than to expect a traditional Christmas disc from the former Bozo Allegro and sometimes Nova Jazz Orchestra member, and “Angels, Kings, My Favorite Things” is predictably quirky. McDonough’s version of “Little Drummer Boy” has no drummer, his “Jingle Bells” is a tender solo piano ballad, and he tosses in some out-of-season selections (Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” an avant-leaning “Scarborough Fair”). His arrangements are nearly always provocative and sometimes terrific. (9 p.m. Thu., Artists’ Quarter, $5.)


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Andrea Canter, Jazz Police
December 16, 2013

Angels, Kings and His Favorite Things -- Larry McDonough CD Release December 19 and 23

We've been enjoying the music of Larry McDonough for a number of years, so it's about time we spend the holidays with this creative pianist/ vocalist/ bandleader/composer. On Angels, Kings, My Favorite Things,  Larry has compiled favorites from his repertoire of traditional holiday fare as well as more modern works often associated with the season, presented in solo, duo and quartet contexts and all blessed with Larry's trademarks of odd time signatures and inventive harmonies. This week, Larry holds two CD release parties, on December 19th at the Artists Quarter in St Paul and on December 22 at the Icehouse in Minneapolis. He's joined on both stages by Richard Terrill (saxes and poetry), Greg Stinson (bass), and Dean White (drums).

Larry McDonough first studied piano in fourth grade, added some vocals and gravitated to neighborhood garage bands in junior high, and was already gigging around town as a high school student in Bloomington, MN. (“I snuck out of the house,” he admits in the interview segment on his 2011 DVD.)  Earning a degree in music education at the University of Minnesota, he had the opportunity to play both piano and trumpet in student ensembles with legends Clark Terry and Thad Jones, and in concerts for President Nixon and the President of Mexico. Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, McDonough worked as a part-time band instructor at Bloomington and Minneapolis high schools, and played in a number of Twin Cities’ bands, ranging from jazz to pop and polka.  He also performed in his own duos and trios, appearing regularly at the old Night Train club in St. Paul and at Jax Café in Minneapolis.

Concerned that his music career was taking him too far from the “real world,” McDonough enrolled in the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul in 1980, initially attracted to environmental law but then falling in love with legal aid work. He noted, “Music seemed isolated from everything else that was going on in the world… While I think music can be inspirational for the moment and have motivating aspects to it, it doesn't directly impact things that are more basic to a person's life and existence.” After a few years away from music, he began giving some limited performances, primarily at private functions, including one honoring First Lady Hillary Clinton, but remained focused on his family (he has three daughters) and his career with Legal Aid. He has been recognized by Minnesota Law and Politics as a "Super Lawyer," and by William Mitchell College of Law as one of "100 Who Made a Difference.”

Music has pulled McDonough more into the public arena since the late 1990s. “The music gives me an artistic, expressive side. There are some elements in the law where you can do that, but, in music, it's more open-ended, especially in jazz.” He began playing publicly again in solo, duo and trio formats, and with the popular fusion group, Bozo Allegro, and with (among others) the Wolverines; vocalists Patty Peterson, Shirley Witherspoon, Connie Olson, and Vicki Mountain; bassists Bruce "Pooch" Heine, Tom Lewis, and Billy Peterson; guitarists Mike Elliott, Brian Barnes, and Bill Bergmann; drummers Dave Stanoch, Phil Hey, and Kevin Washington; horn players Eric Leeds, Dave Jensen, Kathy Jensen, and Jeff King; and with legendary jazz-funk trombonist, Fred Wesley. He also shared the stage with bop sax legend Benny Golson and trumpeter Duane Eubanks. In April 2007, Larry was inducted into the Minnesota Rock Country Hall of Fame for his work in the group, Danny’s Reasons.

Among a number of diverse projects, Larry has been involved with Fingersteps, a program in which children with disabilities write melodies and perform music using adaptive computer hardware and software. McDonough also merges spirituality with his music, often adapting faith-based musical pieces by changing the basic elements to create new arrangements. A composer since high school, Larry currently puts his writing skills to work by composing and arranging music for school music programs, ranging from small groups to concert and jazz bands, exposing young musicians to his “offbeat” harmonies and rhythms. He has also taught  through his adjunct appointment to the music faculty of the University of Minnesota.

Larry McDonough’s recordings include his acclaimed solo debut, Small Steps, Tuscarora, and the quartet’s Simple Gifts (2005), a set of divergent delights ranging from reconstructed holiday chestnuts to reinvented standards to original tunes. My Favorite Things: Odd Times for Jazz Ensemble, Orchestra and Concert Band (2007) is a series of area high school ensemble performances of McDonough’s original works and arrangements. In early 2012, the quartet celebrated a DVD filmed through Baby Blue Arts (Live at Music Connection), showcasing original works and arrangements. Later that year, McDonough and long-time collaborator and saxophonist Richard Terrill, released the duet recording, Solitude.

Angels, Kings, My Favorite Things

The new compendium of carols and more, featuring McDonough's regular quartet with Terrill, Craig Mataresse (bass) and Chaz Draper (drums) is not your mother's holiday album.  McDonough leads off with a tribal groove along with Draper and Matarrese on "My Favorite Things," enhanced by echoes of Coltrane from saxman Terrill, then goes solo in transforming "Jingle Bells" into an elegant jazz ballad. Other popular seasonal songs are given unfamiliar treatments-- the dark shades of gray on "Silent Night" and "Simple Gifts"; a delicate piano/sax duo reharmonizing "Little Drummer Boy" (sans drums!); a reconsidered "Ode to Joy" that sneaks in a snippet of Bill Evans' "Waltz for Debby";  a "We Three Kings" that musically leans toward Bethlehem; and an "Angels We Have Heard On High" with staggering rhythms. 

The pop inclusions are no less satisfying, from Richard Terrill's haunting sax on the minor waltz arrangement of "Alone in the World" from Mr. McGoo’s Christmas Carol to the quartet's free-wheeling, "Paul Simon Meets Ornette Coleman" rendition of "Scarborough Fair."

Spending the holidays with Larry McDonough is like the best of family reunions--getting reacquainted with relatives who seem so different from how we remember them, and so much more interesting.

The Artists Quarter (December 19) is located at 408 St Peter Street in the lower level of the Hamm Building in downtown St. Paul; music begins at 9 pm. $5 cover; www.artistsquarter.com. The Icehouse (December 22) is located at 2528 Nicollet Av South in Minneapolis; music begins at 7:30 pm, $5 cover; www.icehousempls.com

Portions of this article are adapted from Andrea Canter's liner note for Angels, Kings, My Favorite Things.


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English professor by day, saxophonist by night
By Gina Purcell, Sun Post
December 23, 2013

Richard Terrill is a full-time English professor, part-time saxophonist. He has been playing with the Larry McDonough Quartet for 12 years and is included in three CDs.

Richard Terrill of New Hope is a man of many talents. Not only has he taught English at Minnesota State University, Mankato for 24 years but he is a skilled saxophonist as well.

Terrill’s experience with music began as a child when his aunt, a piano teacher, gave him piano lessons.

“I never really caught on,” he said. “But when I was in seventh grade that’s the age everyone had the chance to be in the band.”

He knew he did not want to play the oboe because his brother played it. Terrill’s brother then suggested he play the saxophone cause “it was cool.”

“It was just luck that I picked a jazz instrument,” Terrill said. “While I really like classical music, my heart is really in jazz and improvisation.”

What had then just been a quick decision for school soon became a passion for Terrill he would not soon lose.

He played in band throughout grade school and went on to study music at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire when he had a slight change of heart.

“The training at the time in music was mostly for being a band director,” he said. “And I knew I didn’t want to be a band director. At the time I thought maybe I was better with words than music.”

He switched his major to English and decided to minor in music instead.

He went on to receive a graduate degree from the University of Arizona in creative writing. He now teaches a full load of courses –mostly creative writing– for fall and spring semesters in Mankato.

Professor Terrill can often be seen navigating through campus to visit the practice rooms of the music department to fit in a brief 45-minute saxophone practice for his own benefit.

Terrill has played with many blues and jazz bands throughout his college years but his most notable partner was Lyle Mays who went on to win several Grammy’s.

Terrill admits he quit playing music several times throughout his life for as long as 10 years but inevitably his desire to play would return and soon he would find himself more involved with music than he thought.

“I just thought I’d take up music again for fun and write something about going back to play the horn again,” he said.

Larry McDonough Quartet
“Angels, Kings, My Favorite Things” is a holiday album consisting of several classical holiday songs that have been given a jazz twist and performed by the Larry McDonough Quartet. (Submitted image)

“Angels, Kings, My Favorite Things” is a holiday album consisting of several classical holiday songs that have been given a jazz twist and performed by the Larry McDonough Quartet. (Submitted image)

In 2001 Terrill experienced another bit of luck when he met Larry McDonough, a talented vocalist and pianist.

McDonough had been performing solo piano in Mankato and wanted to do a collaboration with a local writer when an area editor suggested he meet Terrill.

“We met and got along really well,” McDonough said.

Within two years McDonough would find two more talented players through his friendship with Terrill and in 2003 create the Larry McDonough Quartet.

The quartet performs once a month at Wine Café in Mankato and a few other gigs a month as well.

While McDonough enjoys taking existing songs and twisting them in to a jazz style, he also writes his own music. Terrill has written lyrics for music written by McDonough but admits his lyric writing could use some work.

“Because the lyrics were something new I didn’t really know what I was doing so I had a lot of freedom…” Terrill said.

While Terrill has written a lot of poetry in his years he says lyrics are much different.

“What I’ve learned is that lyrics have to make sense if you’ve only heard them once,” he said. “A poem can really be quite challenging (to understand). Lyrics have to have some kind of appeal right away and I don’t think I’ve mastered that yet.”

Terrill has been a part of three of McDonough’s eight CDs –McDonough also has solo CDs.

This holiday season the quartet is releasing the newest CD entitled “Angels, Kings, My Favorite Things.” The album features several jazz-style holiday classics such as “Little Drummer Boy,” “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night.”

Terrill’s experience playing with McDonough and the quartet has been an enjoyable journey for him.

“One of the things I like most about being a musician is that compared to being a writer when you’re writing alone, music is a conversation with other people,” Terrill said. “It’s great to be a part of that conversation.”

In addition to playing with the quartet and occassionally as a duet with McDonough, Terrill has written two memoirs and often writes poetry.

McDonough has been grateful to work with Terrill over the years stating they bonded instantly.

“It’s just wonderful,” McDonough said. “He and I are a lot alike but a lot different. He’s probably a little more organized and methodical and I’m a little more random. We’re similar in that we like the same kind of music and the same kind of players… We connected very quickly.”

While musical collaborations are not often known to last as long as theirs has, both musicians are grateful for the strong partnership they have created. Likewise they both plan to continue the partnership for years to come.

“I would be lost without Larry,” Terrill said. “As a horn player you need a rhythm section. It’s been a great partnership. I hope to keep it going. We’d like to play more. I’d like to write more lyrics. We keep trying to improve and play more and enjoy it more.”

Info: larrymcdonoughjazz.homestead.com

If you go

“Angels, Kings, My Favorite Things” CD release

• 8 p.m. to midnight, Thursday, Dec. 19
Artist’s Quarter, 408 St. Peter Street, St. Paul
Fee is $5 to enter.

• 7:30-10 p.m., Sunday Dec. 22
Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis
Fee is $5 to enter.

Contact Gina Purcell at gina.purcell@ecm-inc.com


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St. Peter resident to perform at Dec. 6 CD release
Jessica Bies,  St. Peter Herald

Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 8:00 am
By Jessica Bies jbies@stpeterherald.com

Craig Matarrese, philosophy professor and bassist, says he finds a lot of parallels between his professional career and music career.

Philosophy can have a place on stage, he said. Prone to creativity but still analytic, Matarrese said he is often accused of thinking to much.

When it comes to music, that can be both a good thing and a bad thing.

But in the very least, it encourages him to draw connections between the two areas of interest, he said.

"Music, as an art form, is a way of engaging the world and connecting with other people," Matarrese said. "And that’s also in a way what philosophy does.”

A three-year St. Peter resident and talented musician, Matarrese brings a heavy dose of that thinking to the Wine Café in Mankato Dec. 6 for the release of his newest collaborative effort, "Angels, Kings, My Favorite Things."

The CD features music produced by the Larry McDonough Quartet, which will perform pieces from the new CD live at the cafe 8 p.m. to midnight.

Matarrese, who has performed with Ron Bridgewater, Jeff Helgesen, Thomas Wirtel, Morgan Powell, Tim Green and several others, has been a member of the quartet for nearly 12 years.

“I just feel like you get a level of musical communication that is amplified by the years of working together," Matarrese said. "A lot of jazz artists can get together and just run down charts or play music, but that’s not the same as a group that has been playing together for so long.”

The other members of the quartet are similar to Matarrese in that they are working professionals who bring an unique worldview with them to the stage.

McDounough, for instance, is a lawyer and law professor.

He provides vocals, piano, compositions and arrangements for the group. McDounough is also a St. Paul jazz pianist and singer and has performed with legendary saxophonist and composer Benny Golson, Trombonist Fred Wesley and trumpeter Duane Eubanks.

He formed the quartet several years ago and said the band has an intellectual side to it which is apparent both in its music and its new CD.

“Part of what’s fun about the group, is none of us are trying to be rock stars," McDounough said. "We don’t go on tour 365 days a year. We’re all pretty happy with our careers and our jazz."

Other members of the group include sax player and Minnesota State University, Mankato English Professor Richard Terrill and Drummer Chaz Draper.

McDonough said their new CD reflects the band's character. It features several well-known, holiday favorites that have been 'tweaked' to become grayer, more haunting, more free-wheeling.

“We take pieces that are familiar and we rearrange them so they're still familiar and recognizable, but bring you to a different place," McDounough said.

Matarresse said the result is something not a lot of people are used to. Though the band plays 'jazz' its music is really something more, influenced by member's own unique improvisational nature.

“When I think about this band I don’t really think of it as a jazz group really, because we don’t too much that is typically jazz," he said. "I think that makes the music highly original.”

Reach reporter Jessica Bies at 507-931-8568 or follow her on Twitter.com @sphjessicabies


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Jazz quartet releasing holiday CD at Wine Cafe
Tanner Kent,  The Mankato Free Press

MANKATO — The Larry McDonough Quartet takes holiday standards into unfamiliar and sometimes unpredictable territory on its latest release, "Angels, Kings, My Favorite Things."

As the lawyer and acclaimed jazz pianist McDonough says in the CD's liner notes, "I never intended to record a holiday CD."

But he did — and it will be released during a celebration party at 8 p.m. today at the Wine Cafe.

"For more than 10 years," McDonough continues in the liner notes, "(the quartet) has focused on original material and reharmonized covers in complex meters in the style of Herbie, Miles, Coltrane, Brubeck and Bill Evans. I decided to reimagine holiday pieces in this paradigm."

In the opening track, "My Favorite Things," McDonough threads the "Sound of Music" standard through 5/4 time and punctuates with a driving rhythmic pattern and a tritone bass line. On "Jingle Bells," his solo performance is succinct and elegant.

The darker shades of Richard Terrill's saxophone play are showcased in renditions of "Silent Night" and "Alone in the World" while a drummer-less interpretation of "Little Drummer Boy" captures a sound more hopeful.

Elsewhere, the quartet's take on "Scarborough Fair" drives into decidedly avante-garde territory while "Ode to Joy" is crafted in the vein of a Bill Evans waltz.

"Spending the holidays with Larry McDonough is the like the best of holiday reunions — getting reacquainted with relatives who seem so different from how we remember them, and so much more interesting," wrote Andrea Canter of Jazz Ink in her review.

The quartet is comprised of McDonough as well as Minnesota State University instructors Terrill, Chaz Draper (drums) and Craig Matarrese (bass).

Tanner Kent

If You Go
What: Larry McDonough Quartet release party for "Angels, Kings, My Favorite Things" When 8 p.m. today Where Wine Cafe, 301 N. Riverfront Drive