Eric Johnson, "A Professor of Note," The Minnesota Daily:
"There is a Janus-faced professor in the University Law School. But Larry McDonough is not the two-faced lawyer common to overplayed lawyer jokes. His two sides are unique.
Because, when McDonough is not teaching his seminar on poverty law, one can find him at a piano grooving to a 5/4 beat. Besides being an adjunct professor, McDonough is an accomplished jazz pianist.
Even though the two activities appear to be worlds apart, McDonough finds connection between music and law in that each requires a certain amount of creativity. I like the challenge to rethink familiar things,' McDonough explains. Whether in law -- to write a brief differently than it's always been done -- or something in music, I like to play it differently.'
McDonough graduated from the University in 1978 with a degree in music education. It was in college that McDonough cultivated his interest in jazz and in public-interest policies. After spending some time teaching music at local schools, McDonough's interest in public policy work began to grow. Responding to his desire, McDonough took a hiatus from teaching music and entered law school where he studied environmental law. Upon graduation, McDonough moved north to central Minnesota where he represented low-income persons, particularly farmers, in consumer, employment, family, housing and utilities law.
In 1986, McDonough relocated to the Twin Cities and began his present job as staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis, representing low-income persons in housing and consumer law. I basically sue slumlords, preventing them from kicking out their tenants or forcing them to do repairs,' McDonough says. I wanted to be a Ralph Nader type. I've always had this lefty public-interest side. Even in high school I was the only trumpet player with a McGovern sticker on his trumpet case.'
As Nader inspired McDonough's legal interest, Dave Brubeck, an experimental jazz composer and pianist, inspired him musically. Dave Brubeck's album, 'Time Out' challenged the way music was played. He seemed to say,'Why play things the way they've always been played?' I like that,' McDonough says. It was at this point when McDonough began to find a knack for altering the meter of traditional songs, creating unique and original pieces. Among the songs which McDonough has reconstructed and rearranged are Eric Clapton's Layla,' the Beatles' Good Day Sunshine' and Miles Davis' All Blues.' He also has created more dissonant versions of Linus and Lucy,' If I Only had a Brain' and My Favorite Things.'
I like to take songs and weird them out a bit. It sometimes makes them more interesting and fun to play,' he says. For example, I take 'The Star Spangled Banner' and turn it into a 4/4 jazz standard, or when I play 'If I Only had a Brain,' I add some chords and make it more of a dirge.'
McDonough is careful to keep his busy life in balance. I worked out my schedule (as an attorney and as an adjunct professor) to make sure I can be with my family and also have time to play some gigs,' he said. This is an essential task for someone who has two busy careers. McDonough has received the 'Super Lawyer' award from local magazines for two consecutive years.
Musically, McDonough plays solo shows, duets and in a band, Bozo Allegro. He has performed for former First Lady Hillary Clinton, President Nixon, and the President of Mexico. His album, Small Steps,' contains three new arrangements of pop songs, three arrangements of classic jazz songs and two original pieces. The title track of the album is McDonough's response to John Coltrane's Giant Steps.'
Small Steps' has been featured on local radio stations as well as on jazz stations around the country. Some of McDonough's 5/4 creations from Small Steps' can be sampled at www.marxmusic.com. McDonough and trumpeter Phil Holm, both members of the jazz-fusion big band Bozo Allegro, will be performing Tuesday, Jan 30, 9-12 p.m. at Jazzmine's in the Warehouse District in Minneapolis."