Anything but simple...
Larry McDonough Quartet -
Simple Gifts Review
Posted By DP Wieland on 10.10.2005
Inside Pulse

The Larry McDonough Quartet - Simple Gifts

Track Listing:
1. Ode to Joy
2. Tuscarora
3. Dame la Mano (Red River Valley)
4. They Can't Take That Away from Me
5. Aja
6. Lady Lay
7. Simple Gifts
8. Elie's Theme
9. My Favorite Things

The Inside Pulse:
The Larry McDonough Quartet in a Minneapolis based ensemble of jazz virtuosos. Their new CD, Simple Gifts, finds them moving effortlessly through a diverse body of songs that includes Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and Steely Dan's "Aja". Where as other jazz groups may treat this wide range of material with a vulgar disregard for the original arrangements, Larry McDonough has instead chose to recast these songs with a variety of time signature and compositional changes that give material like "My Favorite Things" and the Gershwin classic "They Can't Take That Away from Me" a richness and fresh tone that seems unexpected yet obvious; as if his versions are the way the songs ought to sound.

Simple Gifts opens with an eclectic arrangement of "Ode to Joy". This one starts of in a low, kind of simmering sound, and then unfolds with wonderful solos punctuated by Richard Terrill's outstanding sax work and Chaz Draper's incredible drumming. (A small note here: If for no other reason, you should purchase this CD just to hear Mr. Draper's skill. Soloing or comping, it matters not. This man can work.) While the explosiveness of "Ode to Joy" and the aggressive playing found on "My Favorite Things" are sure to attract attention from listeners, songs like "Tuscarora", "Dame la Mano", and wonderful "Aja" possess a subtlety that will keep bringing you back.

If you like to hear talented musicians reform classic songs in a new, fresh, emotionally honest way, this CD is for you.

At times, this album tries to do too much with the material, especially on "Elie's Theme". That said, the most distracting element here are the vocals. Compared to the accompanying music, they seem too surface, too pretty.

Cross Breed:
Dave Brubeck, Charles Evans, Bob Ravenscroft.

Reason to Buy:
The Larry McDonough Quartet's undeniable, individual talent justifies purchase. Also, if you enjoy hearing familiar songs redone in a fresh, new way, this is for you. Whether you enjoy Jazz or not, there is too much here to miss.