Mankato Free Press
"Pianist Larry McDonough balances law and music,"
Mankato Free Press
By Joe Tougas

"MANKATO - Piano and law. Larry McDonough practices both.

As a pianist, he does pretty good for part time. Playing tonight at the Jazz Club, McDonough is also a regular at the Dakota in the Twin Cities with his band Bozo Allegro, a nine-piece fusion band.

On solo piano, he will be performing weekends throughout the summer at places such as the Jazz Club, Dreamcoat Café in Stillwater and the Dakota in St. Paul's Bandana Square.

His CD, Small Steps,' demonstrates a fine personal touch on tunes such as Linus and Lucy,' as well as works by Miles Davis (All Blues') and the Beatles (Good Day Sunshine'). Since its release in spring of this year, he has appeared and played on Twin Cities Public Television on NewsNight Minnesota' and on other TV and radio appearances.

As a lawyer, he does good part time. McDonough, 44, works for Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis, providing legal representation for poor clients who otherwise can't afford lawyers.

Growing up in the Cities, McDonough initially sought out a career as a musician, getting a degree in music education at the University of Minnesota. He played with bands, worked as a part-time band instructor at Minneapolis Edison High.

He ultimately found that a career in music would remove him from too much of the real world, and in 1980 enrolled at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul.

In 1983 he took work as a clerk at the Legal Aid offices and was convinced that representing the underprivileged was the way for him. 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,' he said.

I needed to do something that would more directly impact those type of things.'

He finds the balance a good one: He's able to work at Legal Aid four days a week, allowing him time for family and for music. The schedule puts him in a position where he needn't choose between music and law. But if he had to, it would be The Practice.

I'd pick law because of the type of law I do,' he said. I help people who have so few things stacked up on their side. At the same time, I need both of them. 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.'

McDonough will play solo at the Jazz Club with an 88-key synthesizer run through speakers that will give the music a stereo effect to the room. As his CD indicates, one can expect a unique blend of jazz and pop - putting jazz touches on such pop standards as Eric Clapton's Layla.'

If you're open to it, it allows you to aggregate your musical influences and put them together,' he said. You can take 'Layla' and put it through a filter and it ends up more Herbie Hancock-meets- Phillip Glass.'

His itinerary of upcoming weekends include coffeehouses and plenty of outstate gigs.

Jazz players in the city don't move around too much. I think there's a tendency for us to play gigs here [Minneapolis] or travel to another metro, but not to other parts of the state the way folk and bluegrass people do. That's a shame. You get an attentive audience, and you reach a whole new audience that you don't reach up here.'"