Have a Little Faith in Jazz

Click here for “Seeker's Diary:
First Presbyterian Church of South
St. Paul” By Amy Gage,
Minneapolis Star Tribune

Hear Larry McDonough on
KBEM 88.5 FM Radio’s
“Jazz and the Spirit” discussion the
connection between faith, jazz,
and the music of Larry McDonough
and the Larry McDonough Quartet.
© Michele Jansen, KBEM

From its origins in spirituals and gospel,
jazz always has been closely intertwined
with messages of faith.  Larry
McDonough has continued the
tradition by taking pieces of faith,
and pieces containing elements of
faith, and putting his stamp of
altered harmonies, rhythms and
meters to create new arrangements
for a new generation.

McDonough’s new quartet CD,
Simple Gifts” (2005), his first
studio group recording, contains
Ode to Joy” done as a waltz in
the style of Bill Evans,
Simple Gifts” sung in 7/4 time
with minor harmonies, and the
meditative “Tuscarora” based on
the Northern Minnesota lake,
first recorded on “Tuscarora:
Short Stories for Jazz Piano.”

McDonough first explored the genre
in his first solo CD, “Small Steps
(2001), with his arrangement of
“Nature Boy.”  While many consider
the piece only as a beautiful jazz
standard made famous by Nat King
Cole and George Benson and a
generation later, the lyric of a wise,
strange and enchanted boy with a
message of being loved and loving
others is unmistakable in its
message of faith.

McDonough’s second solo CD,
Tuscarora: Short Stories for Jazz
Piano” (2003), contained original music,
as well as arrangements of jazz,
popular, religious, and  historical music
in different times signatures and
harmonies.  From McDonough’s
liner notes:

“I wrote Tuscarora after finding what
remains my favorite lake in the Boundary
Waters Canoe Area in Northern
Minnesota.  A long portage on the east
side keeps the remote lake from many visitors.  Its combination of clear water, bluffs, beaches, fishing holes, and landscapes made it the perfect site for contemplation. 

“'Amazing Grace' often is viewed only in its religious context, but it also speaks with strength of the potential of all people to review their priorities and find new and higher directions.  By placing the piece in 5/4 time and first in minor harmonies with later resolution to major, I sought to capture this evolution.  It is dedicated to the late great pianist Bobby Peterson, whose faith and music were one.


'We Shall Overcome' continues my interest in interpreting historical pieces with jazz harmonies, and is dedicated to my late friends Paul and Sheila Wellstone, Roger Cobb, Paul Marino, and Bernie Becker, whose tireless work for social justice always gave me hope, and to my daughters Kelsey and Shannon, who continue to reach for new heights, and Rosie, who overcomes disabilities every day."

McDonough regularly performs these and other jazz influenced pieces of faith in church services in his home state of Minnesota, as well as around the country.  Recent performances have included:


First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia
2125 Chestnut St.
Philadelphia, PA

West Valley Unitarian Universalist Church
5904 W. Cholla Street
Glendale, AZ 85304
(623) 846-6004


People's Congregational Church
293 3rd St N.
Bayport, MN

Dakota Unitarian Universalist Church
13001 County Road 5
Burnsville, MN

Peace United Church of Christ
1015 East Eleventh Street
Duluth, MN

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mankato
937 Charles Avenue
Mankato, MN

Gethsemane Lutheran Church & School
2410 Stillwater Rd E
Maplewood, MN 55119

Augustana Lutheran Church
704 11th Ave South
Minneapolis, MN

Basilica of Saint Mary
88 North 17th Street
Minneapolis, MN

Central Lutheran Church
333 12th  St. South
Minneapolis, MN
612- 870-4416

Church of St. Albert the Great
E. 29th Street at 32nd Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN

First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis
900 Mount Curve Avenue
Minneapolis, MN

First Universalist Church
3400 Dupont Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN

Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church
511 Groveland Avenue
Minneapolis, MN

Plymouth Congregational Church
1900 Nicollet Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN

Simpson United Methodist Church
2740 South 1st Avenue
Minneapolis, MN

St. Philip The Deacon Church
17205 County Road 6
Plymouth, MN

Church of St. Richard
7540 Penn Ave S.
Richfield, MN

First Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester
1727 Walden Lane SW
Rochester, MN 55902-0901

First Presbyterian Church of South St. Paul
535 North 20th Avenue
South. St. Paul, MN

Macalester Plymouth United Church
1658 Lincoln Ave.
St. Paul, MN

Pilgrim Lutheran Church
1935 St. Clair Avenue
St. Paul, MN

St. John the Evangelist Church
60 North Kent Street
St. Paul, MN

St. Paul Reformation Lutheran Church
100 N. Oxford
St. Paul, MN

Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnetonka
605 Rice  Street
Wayzata, MN.

St. James Lutheran Church
460 Annapolis St W
W. St. Paul, MN

Redeemer Lutheran Church
3770 Bellaire Avenue
White Bear Lake, MN

Unitarian Universalist Church of Willmar
500 Southwest Fifth Street
Willmar, MN

For more information, contact Larry at mcdon056@umn.edu or 651-398-8053.