Jazz Face: Larry McDonough
Pleads the Case for 7/4
By Andrea Canter
April 6, 2012
Legal Aid attorney Larry McDonough
has a long history of supporting those
who most need it, and can least afford it.
That social activism carries over to his
music. Larry not only rearranges
standards and modern hits, often in
odd time signatures, he has also been
involved in a project that turns children with disabilities into composers. Through the creative hardware and software applications of the Fingersteps Project, McDonough has used student melodies as a launching pad for fully formed jazz works, some of which he has recorded and which he performed at the celebration of his Baby Blue Arts DVD at the Dakota (April 5th). He now has seven such compositions, the first of which he recorded on his quartet’s Simple Gifts, and a few of which will be on his next recording project, a duet with saxophonist/poet Richard Terrill dubbed Solitude.
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Rhythm and Grooves
Jazz, Blues, and Roots, Oh My! Music: 4.4 – 4.11
By Larry Englund
April 4, 2012
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Larry McDonough Quartet DVD Release @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($5) McDonough is a pianist of considerable skill and sensitivity who sometimes takes an “offbeat” approach to his music. He and his quartet (Richard Terrill, saxes, lyrics; Craig Matarrese, bass; Chaz Draper, drums) have filmed “Live at the Music Connection” for public television. They perform poetry as well as odd-metered jazz based on melodies from children with disabilities, as well as from composers as disparate as Betthoven, Brubeck, and Spinal Tap. BTW, it’s foodie night at the Dakota. Here’s a preview.
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Larry McDonough Quartet, New DVD at the Dakota, April 5th
By Andrea Canter
April 4, 2012
"Larry McDonough is an original much in the tradition of Dave Brubeck, and McDonough's piano stylings are intimate and innovative. There is a touch of humor blended within the time signatures that adds to the charm and intricate playing McDonough shares with the audience.” (Lee Prosser, Jazz Review)
Balancing the life of a fulltime musician and an active Legal Aid attorney, pianist Larry McDonough conveys nothing but spirited equilibrium in his far-ranging compositions and off-beat arrangements. Among his acclaimed projects is the 2005 quartet release, Simple Gifts, and the 2007 recording, My Favorite Things: Odd Times for Jazz Ensemble, Orchestra and Concert Band, a series of area high school ensemble performances of McDonough’s original works and arrangements. With his working quartet (Richard Terrill on saxes, Craig Matarrese on bass, and Chaz Draper on drums), McDonough returns to the Dakota Jazz Club on Thursday, April 5th, to celebrate a DVD filmed through Baby Blue Arts, showcasing original works and arrangements, including one co-written with his daughter as part of a project …
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 the new 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.
However, 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.” This year he is on leave from Legal Aid, concentrating on teaching law students at Hamline University.
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, a set of divergent delights ranging from a reconstructed holiday chestnut (“Ode to Joy”) to inside-out renditions of pop and jazz standards (Steely Dan’s “Aja,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “My Favorite Things,”) to the harmonically and rhythmically altered traditional melodies of the title track and children’s song, “Red River Valley” (transformed as “Dame la Mano”) and a trio of original tunes (including a tribute to “Lady Day”). What most attracts listener’s to his music is Larry’s ability to turn time inside out and maintain harmonic integrity, arranging familiar pieces in 5/4 or 7/4 time, giving them a different sound and feel without losing the underlying melody. Further, his feathery touch recalls Bill Evans but with more fingers; his left hand alternately propels and sings; his dazzling two-handed runs display clear articulation from every digit. McDonough gets ample support from his bandmates: Richard Terrill (tenor and soprano sax) received the 2004 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry (Coming Late to Rachmaninoff). A Professor of English at Minnesota State University Mankato, Dick has performed with guitarist Jim McGuire, with Chaz Draper's Uptown Jazz Quartet, and with pianist Geoff Keezer. As a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, he performed with the school’s acclaimed Jazz Ensemble and with later-to-be Pat Metheny keyboardist Lyle Mays in the Lyle Mays Quartet. Mingus-influenced bassist Craig Matarrese is also on the Minnesota State Mankato faculty, as a Professor of Philosophy, having moved to Minnesota after working and playing in Chicago. Drummer Chaz Draper provides the jet-propulsion that makes the quartet fly. His resume includes four decades of work with a wide range of artists, including Mamie Van Doren, Lawrence Welk, Billy Barber, the Upton Jazz Quartet and Mankato Symphony. Live at Music Connection contains the first television performance of the Larry McDonough Quartet (LMQ), recorded by Baby Blue Arts at Minnesota Connection in Edina, MN for viewing on public television stations around the country, and online at http://www.babybluearts.com. The music from the DVD will be performed at the April 5th Dakota gig, along with some other McDonough favorites: ●“A Rose for Two” in 5/4, from the Fingersteps Project (see above), written in part by Larry’s daughter Rosie and friends Jennifer and Patrick, and previously recorded on My Favorite Things by the St. Paul Central High School Orchestra, directed by Matthew Oyen ●“Sirocco” in 7/4, named after the hot east wind blowing from Northern Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to Southern Europe, with 7-bar phrases, and performed on My Favorite Things by the Minnesota Youth Jazz Band; ●“Ode to Joy,” first recorded on Simple Gifts, with the Beethoven favorite arranged by Larry in the style of a Bill Evans waltz ●“Lady Day,” based on the Frank Reed poem about Billie Holiday thinking back over her career, Larry matching the melancholy of the beginning with minor-major 7th harmonies, the hopefulness of the middle with major 9th sharp 11ths, and the uncertainty of the ending with the original harmonies; ●“Angels We Have Heard on High,” which McDonough recasts in a rolling 7/4 time, with Terrill playing the melody on soprano at the beginning and McDonough singing on the way out
In addition to the DVD tunes, the quartet will likely play “Some Other Time” with Terrill with adding a poem about Bill Evans; “Stonehenge” by Spinal Tap in 5/4; “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin; Paul Desmond’s “Take 5” done as “Take 7,” a rolling funk in 7/4; “Solitude” in 7/4 and “Waltz for Christian,” both from the Fingersteps project, for which Terrill added lyrics; “Tango para Maria Luiza” in 9/4, which McDonough wrote for his late aunt; several Medeski, Martin & Wood pieces; and more.
And this DVD release is just the beginning of a busy 2012 for Larry McDonough and company. A duo recording with Richard Terrill, Solitude, is due out this year, including works for sax, piano, voice, and poetry, and music by Rachmaninoff, Bill Evans and the Fabulous Baker Boys, as well as from McDonough himself and the Fingersteps Project. The Larry McDonough Group will release Angels and Kings, My Favorite Things, a collection of ten years of holiday music from Mr. McGoo to Rodgers and Hammerstein to Paul Simon, with new harmonies, structures, and even some free jazz.
The Dakota is located at 1010 Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis; make reservations in the club at 612-332-1010; $5 cover. More about Larry McDonough and his recordings is available at http://www.larrymcdonoughjazz.homestead.com
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April 5, 7:00 pm
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Jazz / Larry McDonough
By Dan Emerson
April 1, 2012
Thursday: St. Paul-based jazz composer and pianist/vocalist Larry McDonough is celebrating the release of his new DVD, "Live at Music Connection." The original disc features poetry and odd-metered jazz based on melodies from children with disabilities, along with Beethoven, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Spinal Tap, Led Zeppelin and others. The children are McDonough's daughter, Rosie, and Jennifer and Patrick Moffatt, the children of Dan Moffatt, who created the Fingersteps Projects, enabling children with disabilities to create melodies using adaptive computer equipment. McDonough, also a [former adjunct] professor at William Mitchell College of Law, will be accompanied at the Dakota by saxophonist and poet Richard Terrill, drummer Chaz Draper and bassist Craig Matarrese. 7 p.m.; Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant, 1010 Nicollet Ave., Mpls.; $5; 612-332-1010 or dakotacooks.com.
By Pamela Espeland
April 3, 2012
On Thursday at the Dakota, Legal Aid lawyer, law professor, family man and jazz pianist/composer/vocalist/arranger Larry McDonough releases his DVD, “Larry McDonough Quartet: Live at Music Connection.” McDonough’s music is thoughtful, mellow, studied jazz—close-your-eyes-and-listen jazz. More feeling than flash, more poetry than pyrotechnics, though he does play around with odd meters. The program includes Beethoven, Brubeck, Bill Evans, Spinal Tap, Led Zeppelin, and melodies from the Fingersteps Project, with compositions based on melodies written by children with disabilities including McDonough’s daughter Rosie. Here’s the quartet’s version of “Ode to Joy.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4h6AplVirI 7 p.m.
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“With a feathery touch that recalls Bill Evans but with more fingers and a unique approach to time that makes the most worn carol or standard a new adventure” –Andrea Canter. One of the most unique voices in the local jazz scene, Larry McDonough is an exceptional pianistic talent. His original music and odd-meter versions of jazz standards have kept him in demand since the 1970s. McDonough scaled back his performing and recording in the 90?s to raise a family and earn a law degree, and is now finding that perfect balance between work, family, and music. He has released several recordings with different ensembles over the past few years, and his live shows with his quartet are as transcendent as ever. “They play in a very open fashion where all you want to do is kick back, relax, and let the music take you away to a place untraveled.” -John Book.
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By Andrea Canter
April 4, 2012
April 5: Pianist/attorney Larry McDonough has been keeping a relatively low profile lately but now he’s launching a new DVD project (Live at Music Connection) with a celebration at the Dakota. Larry describes it as “performing poetry and odd-metered jazz based on melodies from children with disabilities--Beethoven, Brubeck, Bill Evans, Spinal Tap, Led Zeppelin, Brubeck, Medeski Martin & Wood, and others.” His long-standing quartet includes saxophonist Richard Terrill, bassist Craig Mataresse, and drummer Chaz Draper.
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Also from the JazzInk Vaults
Tributaries of the Third Stream
By Andrea Canter
November 16, 2007
I always enjoy hearing pianist Larry McDonough and his quartet. One minute they’re running through a standard like “Night and Day” and the next minute it’s Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”—in either case, you can be sure Larry has wreaked havoc with the meter and created something fresh and delightful. Of course Beethoven seems like an odd choice for a jazz band, owing nothing to African roots, syncopated rhythms or “in the moment” improvisation. Yet European forms and elements have been flavoring jazz for decades. Modern music icon Gunther Schuller is credited with adding the term “Third Stream” to our glossaries of musical terms in the 1950s, defined by the Guinness jazz compendium as music that seeks to “bridge the gap between European disciplines and forms and the attitudes and techniques of jazz.” More generally, Guinness further notes that the term has been applied more generally to “the process of breaking down barriers between one form of music and another.”
“Bridging the gap” implies a dichotomy, a wide DMZ of Atlantic Ocean separating continents of European and American music traditions. Yet from early days of jazz, European music and audiences have influenced jazz, from the army bands of James Reese Europe (living up to his name?) playing for the Allies during World War I to the influx of young modernists like the Swedish trio of Esbjorn Svensson and company (E.S.T.). Listen to the orchestral works of Gershwin and the majestic suites of Ellington and it is clear that European music was not far from the minds of the greatest composers of 20th century “jazz.” Decades later, Maria Schneider is creating a substantial body of orchestra works that have direct lineage to Ellington, melding forms and harmonies straight out of western classical traditions with the swing and improvisation of New Orleans, Africa and the Caribbean.
In the past week or two, I’ve heard a lot of music that may not meet Schuller’s definition of Third Stream yet clearly flows from related sources. The John Abercrombie Quartet (at the Dakota), and particularly violinist Mark Feldman, presented engaging compositions that alternately soared and buzzed, a fusion to be sure, but a mélange as strikingly classical in harmonies as it was jazzed and beyond in meters and deconstructions. Part of the Walker Art Center’s New World Jazz Series, Norwegian accordion master Frode Haltli—with partners on clarinet, Hardanger fiddle and voice—created an innovative weaving of Scandinavian folk and free jazz that at times strangely (or not so strangely) evoked Grieg. And playing this week in the car stereo, I continue to marvel at Sky Blue, Maria Schneider’s latest Artist Share release that deserves “Jazz Symphony of the Year” status—a tapestry of western hymn, big band arrangement and deep south blues, as well as Fantasy, in which the Bill May’s Inventions Trio creates inspiring collaborations for piano, flugelhorn and cello, building classical harmonies with post bop rhythms.
Bringing Beethoven into the Dakota, the Larry McDonough Quartet simply followed a thread that, like time and melody, seems to have been there all along. Third Stream? Fusion? Jazz? Neoclassical? As Louis Armstrong said years ago, “There is two kinds of music, the good and bad.”
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University of St. Thomas
April 4, 2012
Larry McDonough, School of Law, and his musical group, the Larry McDonough Quartet, will play at the DVD release party for Live at Music Connection (DVD for TV, PC and Itunes) from 7 to 11 p.m. tomorrow, April 5, at the Dakota Jazz Club in downtown Minneapolis. LMQ will perform poetry and odd-metered jazz based on melodies from children with disabilities, Beethoven, Brubeck, Bill Evans, Spinal Tap, Led Zeppelin and others. Cover is $5 but will be waived with $20 food purchase per person as part of the Minnesota Monthly Foodie Nights Series, which also will feature a $10 bottle of wine. McDonough plays piano and performs vocals; the other members of LMQ include Richard Terrill on saxes and poems, bassist Craig Matarrese and drummer Chaz Draper. View a full press release here. http://larrymcdonoughjazz.homestead.com/Release.html