Saxolollapalooza / Frank Macchia
Saxolollapalooza = Massive Saxophones!
What do you get when you cross six of Los Angeles best jazz saxophonists, the drummer from the legendary band Weather Report and Grammy nominated composer/arranger Frank Macchia? Saxolollapalooza, of course! The CD features Eric Marienthal, Bob Sheppard, Gene Cipriano, Sal Lozano, Frank Macchia and Jay Mason on saxes and woodwinds, with drummer extraordinaire Peter Erskine supplying the fluid grooves. Macchia arranged and produced the material, which is an eclectic mix of New Orleans second line feel, samba, funk, swing and ballad genres. Says Jazziz Magazine of Macchia, “an inventive composer and arranger who deserves comparisons to Gil Evans and Pat Metheny.” Macchia has worked with Van Dyke Parks, Ella Fitzgerald, Brian Wilson, Clare Fisher, Yes, the Tonight Show Band and composed and orchestrated on numerous films and television shows. He received a Grammy nomination in 2007 for his arrangement of Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair from his CD Emotions and another in 2008 for his arrangement of "Red River Valley" from his CD Landscapes
This project took about 18 years to complete. In 1990 when I was living in San Francisco I bought a bass sax and decided to arrange music for six saxophones (two altos, two tenors, one baritone and one bass sax) and a drummer. The idea was to create a wacky kind of contemporary jazz band but with only saxes and drums. I wrote a bunch of material and even recorded some demos with me overdubbing all the sax parts, but what I always dreamed of was to get a great section of saxophonists to play this material. The music was shoved in the attic for a number of years and recently some friends suggested I record it with some of the amazing players that live in Los Angeles. I looked through the tunes and kept seven of the original arrangements and then arranged five new songs.
Here are some thoughts on the tunes:
Air Mail Special was an old Benny Goodman tune that I did with a more contemporary hip-hop beat. After Bob's screaming solo comes a three part 8 bar blues canon into a shout chorus on out. In Down By The Riverside I was going for a New Orleans second line groove which I love so much. Peter really played the hell out of the drums on this one. My One and Only Love features the legendary Gene Cipriano on baritone sax. I'm so honored to have his incredible musicianship on this project. Check out his beautiful cadenza in the middle of the tune. Yo, Cip! Working Day and Night is a Michael Jackson tune which I always dug the groove on. Eric takes the melody, then Bob and I do a tenor duet melody, followed by Bob's solo and an irreverent soli which leads to the big finish. Java, the old Al Hirt hit was done as a battle between two trios: piccolo (Sal), clarinet (Bob) and soprano sax (Eric) against two baritones (Gene and me) and Jay on bass. I was trying to get the feeling of being lost in the desert on Caravan and tried to channel Ellington for the voicings on this one. Shortening Bread is also going for the second line feel and Eric and Gene trade fours with Sal wailing on the clarinet. Bluesalicious! is a blues I wrote which starts with a repeating two part soli that builds to six part counterpoint... pretty thick! Check out Bob and Peter's duet. Eric is featured on Creole Love Song on alto sax with a complement of four clarinets and a bass clarinet accompanying him. If you listen carefully you'll hear me on contrabass clarinet doubling the bass an octave lower- that was an overdub, of course! I went for a jungle groove on Work Song and featured Peter on drums with Sal soloing on alto sax. Swing Low Sweet Chariot is an old spiritual that I've always loved and the album ends with the old dixieland standard That's A-Plenty done as a samba. The ending is one giant adlib crescendo featuring the whole group going bananas!! By the way, check out the amazing job Jay Mason does throughout the songs laying down some serious bass lines on the big horn...yo, Jay!
I want to thank all the players who worked so hard and had such great attitudes in getting this material recorded. Andy Waterman engineered and did a fantastic job getting a great sound on everyone. I hope you have as much fun listening to this CD as we had recording it.
-Frank Macchia August, 2008
1. (3:06) Air Mail Special
2. (4:37) Down By the Riverside
3. (3:04) My One and Only Love
4. (4:11) Working Day and Night
5. (5:56) Java
6. (5:08) Caravan
7. (3:21) Shortening Bread
8. (6:57) Bluesalicious!
9. (4:23) Creole Love Song
10. (3:50) Work Song
11. (4:36) Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
12. (4:42) That's A-Plenty
Eric Marienthal: Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute
Sal Lozano: Alto Sax, Piccolo, Clarinet
Bob Sheppard: Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Flute
Frank Macchia: Tenor Sax, Bari Sax, Flute,
Alto Flute, Clarinet, Contrabass Clarinet Gene Cipriano: Bari Sax, Clarinet, Flute
Jay Mason: Bass Sax, Bass Clarinet
Peter Erskine: Drums, Percussion
All Music Arranged & Produced by Frank Macchia Engineered by Andy Waterman - Recorded at Entourage Studios, No. Hollywood, CA Mastered by Bernie Grundman at Bernie Grundman Mastering, Hollywood, CA CD cover art and photos by Peter Macchia Thanks to my supportive friends & family, extra special thanks to my wife Tracy © 2008 Frank Macchia - Cacophony, Inc. - Framac Music - BMI
by Edward Blanco
Frank Macchia is a Grammy-nominated composer/arranger and one heck of a saxophonist who, eighteen years ago, birthed an idea to arrange music for a six saxophone section which he states “was to create a wacky kind of contemporary jazz band but with only Saxes and drums.” Saxolollapalooza is the realization of that idea coming to fruition with the help of some of the finest musicians in the world that happen to reside in the Los Angeles area. Macchia anchors a six-piece sax section that include Eric Marienthal and Sal Lozano on alto, Bob Sheppard and the leader on tenor, Gene Cipriano on baritone and Jay Mason on bass saxophones with the great Peter Erskine providing the drums and percussions.
The music is quite varied running the gamut from New Orleans street style (“Shortening Bread”) to sizzling funk (“Working Day and Night” and “Bluesalicious!”), swing style (“Air Mail Special” and “That’s A-Plenty”) sweet ballads (“My One and Only Love” and the Macchia solo special “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”) to the humble samba of Juan Tizol’s “Caravan.”
Saxolollapalooza equals massive saxophones and as such, Frank Macchia produces a concept recording that combines his talents as an arranger with the skillful performance of legendary players who come together to forge a very unique session of saxophone madness, to our grateful delight.
All About Jazz.com
by Jeff Dayton-Johnson
December 14 2008
Way in the background on some classic big band recordings, there is a high-pitched aural glow, a sustained, ethereal, almost liturgical hum coming from somewhere in the reeds section. Duke Ellington's "There Shall Be No Night," from the great Blanton/Webster Band box set (Bluebird, 1990), has it. Partly it's the recording technology of the time, sufficiently imperfect that your brain suspects it's hearing things that aren't there; partly it's the art of the arranger (Billy Strayhorn, of course, in the Ellington example), providing things that are there. It's one of the most transcendent sounds in jazz.
Woodwind multi-instrumentalist Frank Macchia's new saxophone sextet plus drums produces that sound on a couple of its slower- paced tracks, and on this brightly recorded session, it doesn't have anything to do with 1940s recording technology. That is one among many reasons to admire this record.
Another is Macchia's magisterial (and Grammy-winning) arrangements. Macchia has of late been arranging jazz chestnuts for the symphony orchestra, most recently on Landscapes (Cacophony, 2007). His gift for eliciting new harmonic details from familiar material is apparent in many numbers here, particularly the all-too-familiar "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Down By The Riverside."
Macchia is, furthermore, a fine tenor saxophonist with a decidedly R&B bent, an asset that makes more sense in this honking setting than with the symphony orchestras of earlier records: his unaccompanied, bluesy wail at the beginning of "Chariot" is just impeccable.
The leader's solos are generally great, but he does not hog the limelight. Among other standouts, Eric Marienthal has a fine alto moment on a lovely "Creole Love Song," while baritone saxophonist Gene Cipriano's turn on "My One and Only Love" may be the record's finest moment. It is surely the best track, a sublime arrangement that recalls the emotional depths the World Saxophone Quartet brought to "Lush Life" (from World Saxophone Quartet Plays Duke Ellington, Nonesuch, 1986), and these guys bring two more horns to the equation than did the WSQ.Those who know drummer Peter Erskine from his long stint with Weather Report may be surprised by the suppleness with which he digs into a vigorous New Orleans second-line rhythm.
Saxolollapalooza will appeal mainly to devotees of pre-Parker jazz; Macchia and company are not trying to be hip like The Bad Plus or [em]. But the record's appeal may indeed be broader. With a set list that would sit well with the moldy figs—Al Hirt, Duke Ellington, "Down By The Riverside" and Dixieland classics—diehard traditionalists would remain nonplussed by a Michael Jackson tune, the reconfiguration of "That's A-Plenty" as a samba, or the smart funkification of Benny Goodman's "Air Mail Special."Interview available at All About Music.
All About Jazz.com
by Jack Bowers
As John Cleese used to say on the Monty Python television series, "And now for something completely different." Of course, one can usually expect something completely different from free-thinking Frank Macchia, and this CD is no exception to the rule. Once upon a time, Macchia writes, he bought a bass saxophone and came up with the idea of recording half a dozen saxes, from soprano to bass, accompanied only by drums. He wrote a number of charts and even recorded demos on which he overdubbed the saxophone parts. But Macchia eventually shelved the plan, as what he "always dreamed of was to get a great section of saxophonists to play [the] material."
Macchia's dream has come true with Saxolollapalooza, an equably delightful session starring Macchia, ace drummer Peter Erskine and a group of woodwind all-stars from the Los Angeles area—Eric Marienthal, Sal Lozano, Bob Sheppard, Gene Cipriano and Jay Mason. Having chosen his partners carefully, Macchia does the same with his material, which canvasses well-known songs from Benny Goodman's "Air Mail Special," Juan Tizol's "Caravan," the Dixie evergreen "That's A-Plenty" and Nat Adderley's "Work Song" to the time-honored themes "Down by the Riverside," "Shortening Bread" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." Rounding out the program are the standard "My One and Only Love," Michael Jackson's funky "Working Day and Night," Duke Ellington's sonorous "Creole Love Song," the Al Hirt hit "Java" and Macchia's New Orleans-shaped "Bluesalicious!"
While there are solos on every number (as able as one could wish), the emphasis is on the ensemble and Macchia's sophisticated and exotic charts, which wrest as much color and dynamics as one could envision from a six-member reed section. As for Erskine, he performs his duties as "rhythm section" with characteristic style and poise, moving easily from samba to funk, swing to ballad. Tempos are often challenging but Macchia seldom strays far from the basic melody. Those who have heard Macchia on record before should be well-prepared to expect the unexpected. Those who haven't may rest assured that his musicality and that of his teammates is beyond reproach, and that Saxolollapalooza is brisk and refreshing from end to end.
February 5th 2009
Two-time Grammy nominated composer and arranger Frank Macchia has put together quite a little crew for himself, collecting five of Los Angeles’ best saxophonists and adding former Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine for an extravaganza of epic proportions that can only rightly be called Saxolollapalooza.
Macchia, who’s a hell of a saxophonist in his own right, joins Eric Marienthal, Gene Ciptriano, Sal Lozano, Jay Mason, Erskine, and Bob Sheppard for this woodwind-plus-drums force of nature.
The resulting album, the aforementioned Saxolollapalooza, is a blast of white hot energy sparkling with pithy reverberation and exquisite arrangements. At times drenched in New Orleans second line, and at others brimming with samba and funk, Macchia’s moves with the sax sextet are delightful.
In many ways, listening to Saxolollapalooza feels so natural that it’s like sitting in on a private booze-soaked jam session. The tunes are jolly, affecting, cool, and always enjoyable. Macchia’s compositions flicker with passion and confidence, granting each instrument a chance to poke through the surface and give ‘em hell.
“Working Day and Night” is a perfect example. Brimming with funk and purpose, this little number comes from the Michael Jackson tune with one of the best grooves in all of music. Macchia’s arranged things to give each player his own spot and the results are flat-out fun and ultimately smile-inducing.
Benny Goodman’s “Air Mail Special,” the first cut on Saxolollapalooza, blasts out of the gates with Erskine dropping a solid, controlled beat behind a vast net of alto, soprano, tenor, and bass sax sounds. Erskine holds it down again on “Down by the Riverside,” a soulful jam that carries on right out of New Orleans with fervour and six hundred pounds of get-up-and-go.
Then there’s the old spiritual “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” which is given a sizzling rendition by the sextet. And the bluesy swell of “Caravan” pulsates with sweltering heat.
In Saxolollapalooza, Macchia’s created something special. The project saw its birth way back in 1990 when Frank picked up a bass sax in San Francisco and decided to arrange music for a bizarre sort of contemporary jazz band. After shoving it in the attic for a number of years, Macchia’s rediscovery is much to our benefit.
Saxolollapalooza is divine joy, a tremendously cheerful and substantial treat that resonates with power and the flawless skill of these marvellous musicians.