By Larry McDonough
I was not expecting to record a CD when I arrived for a radio interview with John Ziegler of KUMD FM Radio in Duluth. I was there to promote my group Off Beat, which was appearing as the headliner for the Grand Marais Jazz Festival. After the hour long show of jazz conversation interspersed with short piano performances, John sent me the CD he burned. Matthew Zimmerman of Wild Sound removed the conversation, and mixed and mastered this live recording. Tuscarora: Short Stories for Jazz Piano not only contains the pieces which I chose at the moment to play for the show but also reflect stories of my experiences. 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.
I first recorded All Blues on my CD Small Steps. I continue to use it to experiment in trading solos between my left and rights hands like a couple of bass and horn players.
Putting My Favorite Things in a darker 5/4 context reminds us that even our "favorite things" do not come in perfect packages. I also included some of my favorite themes from The Sound of Music.
We Shall Overcome expresses my interest in interpreting historical pieces with jazz harmonies, and is dedicated to my late friends Paul and Sheila Wellstone, Roger Cobb and Paul Marino, 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.
Similarly, I arranged the Star Spangled Banner with Gershwin harmonies to underscore how re-interpreting what we always have held to be true gives it more meaning.
Thanks to Rosie, Shannon, Kelsey, Mary, Babe, Sparky, Ken, Steve, Sid, and Jeanne McDonough (Mom, who got me started), Frank Reed, Galen Robinson, Monica Bogucki, Bricker Lavik, Eric Cooperstein, Lloyd Zimmerman, Dan Moffatt, Matthew Zimmerman, Natasha Frost, John Ziegler, and Hillevi Peterson.