All music composed & arranged by Earl MacDonald unless otherwise indicated. Earl MacDonald Music, SOCAN.
1. Friday Night At The Cadillac Club 3:53
composed by Bob Berg, Fire & Ice Music (BMI)
arranged by Earl MacDonald
soloists: Pete McCann – guitar, Jordan Perlson – drums
* recipient of the 2002 Sammy Nestico Award for outstanding big band arranging
I wrote this chart while touring with Maynard Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau Band, back in 1998. MF band mates, Dave Throckmorton and Jim Brenan provided valuable input as we considered what would make a fun, energetic set-opener. In my memory, I can still hear Maynard's signature sound improvising in all the spots that now feature Pete McCann’s dazzling guitar playing. In 2002, Sammy Nestico selected this arrangement as the winner of the USAF sponsored award named in his honor. I framed and mounted the personal letter I received from Sammy which says “we arrangers have to stick together”. It was a thrill to work with the Airmen of Note as they prepared the piece for performance. This chart has since been performed by many professional and university jazz ensembles across the US and Canada.
2. Mr. Sunshine 7:10
soloists: Jordan Perlson – drums, Joe Magnarelli – trumpet, Jim Brenan – tenor sax
* commissioned by the USAF Airmen of Note, 2003
This is the follow-up commission for winning the Sammy Nestico Award in 2002. Mr. Sunshine is the sardonically affectionate "pet name" given to a jazz string bassist with whom I often collaborate in performance. I sought to create different, yet related environments for the two main soloists, through the progressive development of motivic and harmonic material. The piece is my musical depiction of a character study. Jordan Perlson’s musical interpretation on the drums really gave the piece cohesion and life. Mags plays with such melodiousness and that fat, beautiful, even tone for which he is known. My good friend Jim Brenan demonstrates his authoritative command of the tenor saxophone. I hope people takes note of his incredible talent.
3. Measuring Up 6:54
soloists: Steve Kenyon – bari sax, Pete McCann – guitar, Tim Ries – soprano sax, Ralph Bowen – tenor sax
Measuring Up was originally one of three movements in a larger work I wrote for the University of Connecticut Wind Ensemble, directed by Dr. Jeffrey Renshaw. When the deadline for completing the piece was looming, my wife was nine months pregnant with our first child. I remember being extremely nervous and apprehensive about my new paternal role and the life changes ahead. I believe that some of the uneasiness and trepidation I was feeling was captured in the music. “Measuring Up” incorporates the fast tempo broken beat drum style of the contemporary, underground, electronic dance music known as “drum and bass”. Jordan Perlson did an exceptional job. I am not aware of many drummers comparitively as versatile, musical, and well-schooled.
4. Bad Dream 6:58
soloists: Tim Ries - alto saxophone, Earl MacDonald - piano, Jordan Perlson - drums
The 32-bar melody for “Bad Dream” was written an hour before a jazz composition class lecture I gave at UConn on the topic of contrafact melodies. In addition to bringing in the typical, expected examples (Donna Lee, Prince Albert, Hot House, Ornithology, etc.), I wanted to show that this compositional practice was still alive and well today, by writing something new. The night before, I had a terrible nightmare that continued to haunt me the next morning. It occurred to me that I should write my contrafact melody over the harmonic progression of “You Stepped Out Of A Dream”. I recorded this piece with my sextet, and later developed it for full big band. The big band arrangement was premiered at the 2005 Music Educators National Conference in Baltimore by the MENC All-Eastern High School Jazz Ensemble. Night terrors are reproduced by creating "atypical sonic environments" achieved with unconventional notation practices drawn from contemporary classical composition techniques.
5. Joshua 6:44
composed by Victor Feldman, New Fangled Music (ASCAP)
arranged by Earl MacDonald
soloists: Ralph Bowen – tenor sax, Michael Philip Mossman – trumpet, Earl MacDonald – piano
This is another arrangement that I originally wrote for Maynard Ferguson. It is intentionally simple and leaves plenty of room for blowing. Ralph Bowen frightens me with his ability to effortlessly weave through transitions in and out of 3/4. Hearing Ralph, Michael Mossman and Kenny Davis all prominently featured on this one piece causes me to remember how influencial and inspiring their "Spiral Staircase" OTB recording was for me in my early 20s. Their musicianship was one of the reasons I selected Rutgers for my graduate studies in jazz performance.
6. Woody ‘n You 5:35
composed by Dizzy Gillespie, Edwin H. Morris & Co., a division of MPL Communications (ASCAP)
arranged by Earl MacDonald
soloists: Joe Magnarelli – trumpet, Ralph Bowen – tenor sax, Pete McCann – guitar
Dizzy Gillespie was a pioneer at fusing jazz harmonies and melodies with the rhythms of Latin America. I chose to give his tune “Woody ‘n You” a full-blown salsa treatment, complete with a Mambo at the end. Again, Ralph Bowen’s technical facility and musicality leaves me awe struck.
7. Character Defect 7:36
soloists: Kenny Davis – string bass, Earl MacDonald – piano
After a quarrel with a colleague, I returned to my studio and concurrently improvised at the piano keyboard while trying to comprehend my adversary’s stance. As my thoughts, improvisation, and ultimately this piece unfolded, I began to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. My own flaws became apparent. In the later process of developing this piece, the two solos came to represent divergent ways of looking at the same problem, through the practice of empathy.
8. Bu Who 6:39
soloists: Michael Philip Mossman – trumpet, Craig Brenan – trombone, Earl MacDonald – piano
Bu Who is my tribute to the late, great jazz drummer, Art Blakey. In the 1940s, he adopted the name Abdullah Ibn Buhaina, which led to the nickname “Bu”. The title came to mind while teaching a jazz history class where the entire class admitted to having never heard of Art Blakey or the Jazz Messengers. This sad truth reminded me of the important role jazz educators play in teaching the rich history of the music we love, and introducing the next generation to the recorded legacies of the master musicians who are no longer with us. In writing this one, I tried to capture the flavor of hard-bop (reminiscent of the Jazz Messengers) by alternating a swinging shuffle and Afro-Cuban rhythms.
9. Jana’s Song 7:48
soloists: Tim Ries – alto sax, Mark Patterson – trombone, Pete Rodriguez – trumpet
This gentle jazz waltz was written as a surprise for my wife on our wedding day. My groomsmen (including saxophonist Jim Brenan as best man) hid their instruments under the church pews and pulled them out on cue. I later developed this piece for full jazz orchestra within the BMI Jazz Composer’s Workshop. It was selected as a finalist for the Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Award in 2007. In “Jana’s Song”, I consciously wrote through the seams which link definable passages. In some cases, the ensemble continues to play well into a solo so as to guide the soloist’s improvisational approach and gradually relinquish my control as composer to the soloist. A highlight for me was Mark Patterson's inspired and truly unique solo work on trombone.