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Los Angeles Jazz Scene - CD Reviews January 2013
Larry McDonough and Richard Terrill
Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, pianist-singer Larry McDonough and Richard Terrill, who is both a saxophonist (tenor and soprano) and a
poet, have collaborated many times through the years, often as half of the Larry McDonough Quartet. Solitude – Poetry In Jazz is a first for
them for it is a duet album.
While the emphasis is on wistful moods, slower tempos and thoughtful playing, there is an impressive amount of variety on this set. The
7/4 “Sirocco” precedes a version of “Some Other Time” that has Terrill reading his poem “Bill Evans.” Three pieces on the CD are taken
from the Fingersteps Project. Children with disabilities using equipment composed melodic fragments that McDonough and Terrill turned
into compositions. In addition to a few other originals (including Terrill’s poem on “Coming Late To Rachmaninoff”), the performances
include Dave Grusin’s “Jack’s Theme” from The Fabulous Baker Boys, warm vocals by McDonough on “Night And Day” and “Someone To
Watch Over Me,” a 5/4 version of “God Bless America,” and a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” that could have been a George
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Minnesota Public Radio:
Larry McDonough and Richard Terrill: poetry in jazz
by David Cazares, Minnesota Public Radio
October 4, 2012
ST. PAUL, Minn. — When accomplished jazz musicians begin to compose new works of music, they might draw from a variety of influences, from classic songs and works of art to musings of children.
Such is the wide stream of ideas that inspired pianist Larry McDonough and saxophonist and poet Richard Terrill on "Solitude," a new recording of 11 tracks that springs from jazz standards, classical music, Minnesota poetry and children with disabilities.
They perform tonight at St. Paul's Artists Quarter. I spoke with McDonough about the CD, a graceful recording that connects generations and styles. Here's our exchange:
David Cazares: The music on this CD is very warm and inviting, which for me owes to the combination of instruments. Do the contrasting sounds of the piano, with its wide harmonic range, and the saxophone, with its tones that evoke the human voice, lend themselves to your work or does that combination lead you to create music that lends itself to the instruments?
Larry McDonough: All of my music evolves through various stages and instrumentation. I write at the piano, so the pieces begin as solo piano works. I then take them to my sax player Richard Terrill, or to my full quartet, and as a result of what each player adds the possibilities for the piece expand exponentially. In addition, the more you get to know another player, just like the more you get to know another person, you gain insight into not only what they like and are good at doing, but also what they can add to enhance what you are doing. So, it becomes a circular experience, with the music shaping the players and the players shaping the music.
Cazares: How long have the two of your been playing together and what sparked your collaborations?
McDonough: I met Richard in 2001 during a Minnesota tour for the release of my first solo piano CD "Small Steps." I wanted to perform in various duos as I traveled, so when I was planning some shows in Mankato, I asked Joe Tougas, who covered music for the Mankato Free Press, whom I should contact. He recommended Richard, and we hit it off right away. We both loved the works of pianist Bill Evans and saxophonist John Coltrane, so we had a common base from which to start. Richard and I became the nucleus of the Larry McDonough Quartet (LMQ) along with bassist Craig Matarrese and drummer Chaz Draper. While Richard has recorded with me on two LMQ recordings ("Simple Gifts" CD and "Live at Minnesota Connection" DVD), Richard and I had not done a duo recording in all of these years, so it seemed time to do it.
Cazares: The juxtaposition of poetry and jazz strikes me as a nice touch. How do the two art forms enhance each other? Do you intend to make the music literary and the poetry musical or does that occur naturally?
McDonough: Music and speech have such a strong connection. Most people associate the two together without thinking, as hearing a melody reminds one of its lyrics and vice versa. Often the best lyrics are poems that can stand on their own.
On "Solitude" there are two poems written by Richard, one that came from the music and the other that led to the music. Richard's poem "Bill Evans" travels the heights and depths of this amazing pianist and composer; as a result, we set this poem to Evans' signature ballad "Some Other Time." I composed "Coming Late to Rachmaninoff" after reading Richard's poem "Coming Late to Rachmaninoff" from the book of the same name, winner of the 2004 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry. The poem's speaker, parked on the side of a road in a suburban wasteland, reflects on the beauty of the Adagio from Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony in E Minor. I borrowed themes from the piece but placed them in a different order and in 11/4 time. On the recording, Richard reads his poem over our performance of the piece. At our release at the Artists' Quarter, my wife, Carol Bergquist, will join us on flute, playing under Richard's reading and then in counterpoint with him and me throughout the rest of the piece.
Cazares: How did the Fingersteps Project come about, and what do the children bring to the music that you might not have envisioned?
McDonough: The Fingersteps Project was the creation of software designer Dan Moffatt, who developed a program in which children with disabilities write melodies and perform music using adaptive computer hardware and software. My daughter, Rosie, was one of the children who used the software the write some short melody fragments, a series of notes, without chords or lyrics. I took a number of those fragments and turned them into pieces by adding chords and rhythms. Sometimes I repeated or inverted the melodies to expand them, but I never changed the melody notes created by the children.
What the children brought to the music was the absence of rigidity that can result from formal musical training. In other words, they had no sense of what they should or should not do. For me, their melodies drove me to write differently. For example, "A Rose for Two" is based on fragments from Rosie and Dan's children, Jennifer and Patrick.
The piece begins in E minor and moves to A minor in a single phrase and then moves to a second section where the tonality, or key, changes every bar. Rosie, who is now 19 and has disabilities of cerebral palsy and developmental delay, will come and join us on African drum when we play the song in the first set.
Another example, "Solitude" is based on fragments from three other children. This piece moves from Bb minor to its polar opposite key, E minor. I would not have thought of these structures on my own. My work on these pieces also has changed how I approach composition. In "Sirocco" (the first track on the CD, which I wrote on my own) I hear elements drawn from the different Fingersteps pieces.
Cazares: Given that many jazz musicians (or perhaps younger ones) seem to be turning away from standards in favor of modern forms, how important is it for you to focus on standards?
McDonough: It may seem trite to quote George Santayana, who wrote in "The Life of Reason" that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." A variation on this is that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to ignore what was worthy of longevity. Turning away from jazz standards discards a wealth of material that still can be the basis of modern improvisation.
Richard and I play a mix of original compositions and new arrangements of standards. I can find freshness in standards by changing the meter or time signature, harmonies, tempos, and rhythms, so as to retain the essence of the piece while presenting it in a novel way.
Cazares: The music on this recording is eclectic with selections from Rachmaninoff to Bill Evans, the Middle East and even the "Star Spangled Banner." Do they in some way speak to the multiple influences in jazz and the varied character of the nation?
McDonough: Very much so. Many of the greatest jazz and classical composers drew on themes of different nations and ethnic groups within nations. Too often composers do not reach far enough away from themselves for influences. I try to keep an open mind, thinking that any type of music from any period can be a source for composition and improvisation.
On our CD, we take a couple of historical pieces but move them out of their commonly understood context to provoke thought about their meaning. "God Bless America" often is presented as a blindly patriotic rally cry, so I recast the piece in a Middle Eastern 5/4 rhythm to make it more inclusive. I also arranged the "Star Spangled Banner" more as a Gershwin-like ballad to reflect the mixed emotions accompanying war and love of country.
Cazares: What would you like people to come away with after hearing your show?
McDonough: A sense that in music and life, anything is possible when you keep an open mind. Children with disabilities and no musical training can create music that challenges professional musicians. A new presentation of an old piece can change how one thinks of the piece and life in general. But, in the end, I would hope listeners do not think too much. Duke Ellington once said, "If it sounds good and feels good, then it IS good! One does not have to understand it to enjoy it, but understanding it makes it even more enjoyable.
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St. Paul Pioneer Press:
Entertainment best bets Sept. 28-Oct. 4
Jazz Larry McDonough CD release party
Thursday: St. Paul-based jazz pianist-vocalist-composer Larry McDonough is celebrating the release of his new CD "Solitude." At the AQ, McDonough will be collaborating with saxophonist and poet Richard Terrill. The new CD includes odd-meter compositions based on melody fragments by children with disabilities (including McDonough's daughter, Rosie) and original poems by Terrill, a Minnesota Book Award winner. It also includes interpretations of music from films and Braodway, along with international rhythms and historical pieces. 9 p.m.; Artists' Quarter, 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul; $5l 651-292-1359 or artistsquarter.com. -- Dan Emerson
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Larry McDonough and Richard Terrill Celebrate “Solitude” on October 4
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor
Tuesday, 02 October 2012
“What do children with disabilities, Rachmaninoff, Bill Evans, Cole Porter, The Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Jeff Bridges, the Middle East, the Star Spangled Banner, odd meters, and award-winning Minnesota poetry have in common? Solitude.” -- Larry McDonough and Richard Terrill 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. A perfect foil for McDonough has long been professor/poet/saxophonist Richard Terrill, who has frequently contributed his elegant musical “poetry” to the work of the Larry McDonough Quartet. So what could be more natural than a piano/sax duet recording? On October 4th, McDonough and Terrill celebrate the release of Solitude at the Artists Quarter.
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 his 2011 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.
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.”
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 (2005), a set of divergent delights ranging from reconstructed holiday chestnuts to reinvented standards to original tunes. My Favorite Things: Odd Times for Jazz Ensemble, Orchestra and Concert Band (2007) a series of area high school ensemble performances of McDonough’s original works and arrangements. Earlier this year, the quartet celebrated a DVD filmed through Baby Blue Arts (Live at Music Connection), showcasing original works and arrangements. And watch out for the upcoming release from The Larry McDonough Group, 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.
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.
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 Geoffrey Keezer, as well as in bands led by Myron Floren, Dick Dale, Larry Elgart, and Bob Crosby. 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.
Terrill is the author of the poetry collections Coming Late to Rachmaninoff (University of Tampa Press, 2003), for which he received the 2004 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry, and Almost Dark (University of Tampa Press, 2009). Noted the University of Tampa Press, “Terrill has an eye for the ironic and the beautiful, an ear for music and the music of language.” Dick’s other literary works include a memoir on teaching in China (Saturday Night in Baoding), a children’s book on Duke Ellington, and his jazz memoir, Fakebook: Improvisations on a Journey Back to Jazz (Limelight Editions, 2000). Of Fakebook, former cohort Lyle Mays wrote, “In his description of the noble struggle to create something meaningful in that difficult and mysterious realm of music we call jazz, Terrill finds some surprising truths and insights about the broader business of living life."
Solitude brings a new twist to the decade-plus collaboration between pianist and saxophonist, attorney and poet. Over their years performing in the quartet idiom, Larry McDonough and Richard Terrill have developed an artful empathy, McDonough generally assuming a leading role, with Terrill serving as a counterweight and harmonic partner. Solitude is their first project as an unadorned duo, the music stripped to its essence without external pulsetter and drive train. In such a spare sonic wonderland, the duo reconsider some past delights, mine gold in new arrangements and revel in new compositions. For Richard, music is poetry transformed in sound and rhythm; for Larry, melody is an auspicious starting point, time an endless playground. Together, theirs is a “solitude” that evolves when two minds become one heart.
On October 4 at the Artists Quarter, Larry McDonough and Richard Terrill celebrate the “Solitude” of their partnership, enhancing the music with special guest, flautist Carole Bergquist. This family-friendly event begins at 9 pm, following the Twin Cities Jazz Society’s Young Artists series gig featuring Malonious Thunk, a quintet of UW-Eau Claire jazz students led by Mike Malone. In Mankato, you can enjoy another CD release night with Larry and Dick on Friday, October 5th, at the Wine Café, 301 North Riverfront Drive, Mankato; 507-345-1516; www.winecafebar.com
The Artists Quarter is located at 408 St Peter Street, in the lower level of the Hamm Building in downtown St. Paul; www.artistsquarter.com. More about Larry McDonough and his recordings is available at http://www.larrymcdonoughjazz.homestead.com.
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Mankato Free Press: Between us: McDonough, Terrill jazz duo returns to Mankato with debut recording
October 4, 2012
Between us: McDonough, Terrill jazz duo returns to Mankato with debut recording
By Tanner Kent The Free Press
MANKATO — Ten years of jazz “conversations” between Larry McDonough and Richard Terrill have resulted in their first release as an unadorned duo.
The pair was first introduced more than a decade ago by former Free Press writer Joe Tougas, who led McDonough to Terrill when the former asked if there were any good jazz musicians in town. That recommendation eventually led to the formation of a jazz quintet -- which also includes Chaz Draper and Craig Mataresse -- and a long partnership between McDonough and Terrill.
Over the years, McDonough and Terrill found themselves playing more often as a duo. Finding audiences receptive to their brand of sometimes melancholy, often complex jazz, Terrill said the time was right for the pair to record their first material together.
“It was just time,” said Terrill, an English instructor at Minnesota State University.
McDonough added: “We’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time.”
Once regulars of the now-sparse Mankato jazz scene, the pair returns to the Wine Cafe on Friday for the release party for “Solitude.”
“It’s been maybe four or five years since we’ve played in Mankato,” said Terrill, lamenting the closing of the Jazz Club several years ago.
“We’re really looking forward to coming back,” McDonough said.
For McDonough and Terrill, “Solitude” represents the kind of performance comfortability that only comes with time. McDonough likened their relationship to a marriage made functional by the ability to converse with one another musically. For instance, Cole Porter’s popular “Night and Day” -- like many of the tracks on the album -- is a sort of McDonough/Terrill standard that the two play regularly during performances. The song has been recorded countless times by countless artists, and McDonough and Terrill said they’ve played it themselves in numerous styles.
But on “Solitude,” they choose to open the track with Terrill soloing on his tenor saxophone. Later, as the chorus ends, McDonough quietly slips off the piano, leaving Terrill to close the song in a sort of joyful eruption that punctuates Porter’s sensual lyrical content.
When playing live, McDonough said Terrill typically solos at the beginning. But on the CD, McDonough chose to withhold the chorus until after a long instrumental introduction before closing with Terrill’s warmly textured saxophone.
“I want to allow listeners to form their own perceptions about what the song is about,” McDonough said.
Terrill said: “I don’t even remember how we started playing it.”
“Solitude” is filled with similar surprises.
McDonough recasts many jazz standards with new time signatures and modulations. “God Bless America” is played in 5/4 time and imbued with Middle Eastern harmonies. On the title track -- which is one of three that were compiled using musical fragments created by children with disabilities -- McDonough said he crafted a melody marked in 7/4 time that modulates between Bb minor and its polar opposite, E minor.
“Sometimes, easy listening music is too easy to put on the backburner and forget about,” McDonough said. “And that’s not bad. But, sometimes, I Iike when music demands your attention.”
“Solitude” also pairs McDonough’s songwriting ability with Terrill’s poetry on a handful of tracks.
“Coming Late to Rachmaninoff” is the title of Terrill’s jazz-inspired poetry collection that won the 2004 Minnesota Book Award for poetry. The poem concerns a middle-aged man parked on the side of road, reveling in the beauty of Rachmaninoff’s adagio from his “Second Symphony in E minor.” The song began as a wedding present to Terrill, which McDonough outfitted in 11/4 time. On “Some Other Time,” Terrill’s ode to the brilliant but tortured jazz pianist Bill Evans is accompanied by a delicate composition that belies the poem’s darker material.
“The music has a lightness that softens the poems,” McDonough said.
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MSU Reporter: Jazz and Poetry
A&E, EVENTS, MUSIC — October 4, 2012 3:03 pm
JAZZ AND POETRY
By Emre K. Erku
Music, in any shape or form, is a provocative work of art created without paint. It can tell a story and arouse several feelings, either good or bad. Its vitality bombards everyone on a day-to-day basis no matter how hard anyone tries to escape its grip. TVs, radios, iPods and the Internet spit out musical venom on a 24-hour non-stop time frame. It is safe to say that we as a society are completely consumed by the power of music, and its every element has defined each individual generation of the past and into posterity.
For Minnesota State University, Mankato professor, Richard Terrill, and his musical partner-in-crime, University of Minnesota professor, Larry McDonough, music is a way to delightfully perplex an audience. But, for them, this isn’t executed through the electric chair of rock and roll or the guillotine of funk – its done by the mysterious methods of jazz.
Terrill and McDonough have been performing their jazz together for more than ten years and, now, after one year of collaborating and recording in a Northeast Minneapolis studio, they have produced their first album, Solitude, which they will be performing live at 5 p.m. Friday at The Wine Café in Mankato, Minn. Solitude is Terrill and McDonough’s version of “poetry in jazz.” It incorporates a series of tracks that morph classic pieces such as George Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” and Cole Peterson’s “Night and Day” into a new, original forms. McDonough elaborated a bit more on the subject.
“I think, for me, its fun to re-interpret the old and make it fresh. This is what makes jazz so fun; you can make it fresh every time,” explained McDonough.
For Terrill, jazz is a way to converse with you musical counterparts.
“Playing together is like a conversation, and after playing, you come away with insights that you didn’t know you already had,” said Terrill.
This is exactly what solitude is all about; it’s Terrill on his tenor saxophone complementing or completely contradicting McDonough on piano. And all the different melodies that Terrill and McDonough produce are conveyed on such a non-sensory level that precise interpretation are implausible.
“Larry and I are both on the dark side. Using odd time signatures – 5,7,9 meters – gives the music an edge,” explained Terrill. “A lot of the music is improvised, spontaneous – it’s a spontaneous element of improvisation.”
But besides the two musicians re-creating pieces of the past, Solitude includes five tracks that were originally produced by McDonough and Terrill, some of which actually include Terrill’s award-winning poetry. Melancholic subjects, such as the tortured life of junkies and the hardships of dealing with things we cannot control, have influenced the “unadorned” duo into creating some fine, poetic jazz.
Solitude’s melodies can pick you up and take you higher than the clouds, then remind you that the good times never last and you come crashing down into a pit of disconcertion.
Some of the tracks make you feel as if you’re alone sitting at the end of back ally bar, smoking down a menthol cigarette and sipping on a stiff drink. Others make you feel as if you’re having a better day, like the finer things in life can be encountered without a heavy price. These open interpretations birthed out of the mind of yours truly – this is how powerful the substance of Solitude is.
Apart from the music, surprisingly, McDonough is a professor of law who uses his dealings with slumlords and other dark encounters as an influence for his music and writing.
“Dark qualities have helped my writing. They reflect the melancholy that I see every day,” described McDonough.
On the other hand, Terrill is an accomplished writer/poet from Wisconsin who won the Minnesota Book Award for Poetry in 2004 for his poetry compilation, “Coming late to Rachmaninoff.” This has been of great influence for Terrill and his work on Solitude.
To eloquently end on the words stuck to the back of the album by jazzink.com’s Andrea Canter, “For Richard, music is poetry transformed in sound and rhythm; for Larry, melody is an auspicious starting point, time an endless playground.”
The work of these two artists should make for a great show at The Wine Café, and from the musical junkie’s standpoint of yours truly, Terrill can shred on his sax and McDonough can make love to his piano. They both hit their solos like the late, great Duane Allman used to be able to hit the licks on his guitar.