The Hartford Courant
By: Owen McNally
January 20, 2011
MacDonald’s compositions for a 17-piece jazz ensemble are featured on his latest disc, “Re:Visions” (Death Defying Records), a showcase for the depth, diversity and originality of his composing and arranging skills, plus his well-honed craft at the keyboard. Variety abounds in MacDonald’s six original pieces on the CD, plus his fresh takes on pieces by Bob Berg, Victor Feldman and Dizzy Gillespie. Right from the energetic opener, Berg’s “Friday Night at The Cadillac Club,” MacDonald sets a high standard with his bold approach that mixes wit and intelligence. The top level is sustained right through the finale, “Jana’s Song,” a jazz waltz that the maestro composed for his wife. MacDonald composed the jazz waltz, which is graced with rich sonorities, as a surprise for his wife on their wedding day. “My groomsmen [including saxophonist Jim Brenan as best man] hid their instruments under the church pews and pulled them out on cue,” MacDonald says. Between these two impressive bookends is much thoughtful, literate writing, including “Mr. Sunshine,” a piece commissioned by the U.S. Air Force jazz band, Airmen of Note, and “Measuring Up,” a dark piece tinged with apprehension. The latter is just one of many signs of the emotional range of MacDonald’s compositions, which can flow from angst to joy, from a hard-bopping tribute to Art Blakey to a salsa-soaked jazz rendition of Gillespie’s “Woody ‘n You.” The music sounds fresh and innovative in its own individualistic way as MacDonald, in his forward-thinking signature approach, perpetually pushes the envelope while simultaneously keeping his message lucid and accessible. His music comes out sounding smart and swinging. You don’t need a Ph.D. or a personal interpreter to dig it. The band, stocked with such stalwarts as saxophonists Tim Ries and Brenan and trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman, hungrily devours MacDonald’s servings. Its lineup has the in-depth soloing strength necessary to complement the composer’s high-quality, uncompromising charts.
By: George W. Harris
November 3, 2010
I’m just a sucker for a big band recording. A sucker, but not a pushover. Earl MacDonald leads this band with some very clever original compositions and arrangements that provide some wonderful harmonies while also giving enough elbow room for the soloists. The band has got a few ringers as well; all star saxists Tim Ries and Ralph Bowen show up for some inspired work on the moody and atmospheric original “Measuring Up” and the supercharged classic “Joshua” respectively. Guitarist Pete McCann lays out some exciting work on the well arranged shuffle beating “Friday Night…” and the crisp “Woody ‘N You.” The band has a cheery and well rounded sound, with some well harmonized horns, particularly on “Mr. Sunshine” and the swingin’ “Bu Who.” Have never heard anything by MacDonald before, but I’ll start doing some digging after hearing this one.
“All That Jazz”
By: Ric Bang
August 5, 2010
***** (5 stars)
Here’s a sign that all’s right in the world: Another romping big band has entered the jazz scene. This one is led by pianist / composer / arranger Earl MacDonald. He was the musical director for the Maynard Ferguson Big Bop Nouveau Band for two years and, since then, has won numerous awards for big band arranging. His current marvelous group consists of five reeds, eight brass players and a four-man rhythm section that includes a guitar …and, oh my, how it swings! The quality of the music provided is also exceptional. The melodic content is rich and thoughtful, not simplistic; the relationship between the horn sections and their “passages” illustrates the care MacDonald has taken to blend everything. The result is exemplary, and the solo work also is top-drawer. MacDonald’s recognition of each featured musician’s capabilities is evident; it’s as if he molded each arrangement around solos he’d already heard. Don’t miss this album; its a shining example of big band jazz at its finest.
July 13, 2010
When you start listening to Re: VISIONS, you quickly realize you’re listening to arrangements or originals that each voice something unique. Every track on this kick-ass CD engages the ear differently, unlike the case in a lot of contemporary Big Band albums where ho-hum is the operative word. With re: VISIONS, Winnipeg-born pianist, composer and University of Connecticut educator Earl MacDonald obviously has the right players to carry out his remarkably creative, Maynard Ferguson-inspired musical intentions -personnel like guitarist Pete McCann, for example, lending a kind of Jim Hall presence on the first track, Friday Night At The Cadillac Club; or trumpetter Joe Magnarelli and Calgary tenor saxophonist Jim Brenan, both displaying the kind of moody but finely articulated energy (on track 2’s Mr. Sunshine) that so successively pervades the rest of the recording.
Winnipeg Free Press
By: Chris Smith
June 12, 2010
Earl MacDonald — pianist, director of jazz studies at the University of Connecticut and a former Winnipegger — comes charging out of the gate with Bob Berg’s Friday Night at the Cadillac Club, a piece propell ed by guitarist Pete McCann and drummer Jordan Perlson, on this great nine-tune disc. MacDonald is a triple threat here as pianist, arranger on three tunes and composer of the other six. He shines as a pianist on Bad Dream, but his greater role is arranging and composing for the 17-member big band featuring some great musicians, such as trumpeter Michael Phillip Mossman, tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen, and alto saxophonist Tim Ries, whose credits span the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra and the Rolling Stones. MacDonald has crafted an entertaining, innovative recording, helping to keep alive jazz orchestral music.
By: Marke Andrews
June 5, 2010
One of the great songs for a jazz-rock combo is the late Bob Berg’s Friday Night at the Cadillac Club, which he often played with guitarist Mike Stern. Cadillac Club opens Re: VISIONS, a big-band disc from pianist and band-leader Earl MacDonald, who makes it as crisp and driving as the original, and gets an outstanding guitar solo from Pete McCann. The other eight tracks, six of them MacDonald originals, live up to the opener. Bad Dream, one of the originals, has the horn section with muted trumpets hit shots and play off the brisk brushwork of drummer Jordan Perlson. Trombones anchor the horns for MacDonald’s Character Defect, on which the leader contributes an impressive solo. McCann, who makes his guitar sound like electric violin, and soprano saxophonist Tim Ries both wail on MacDonald’s Measuring Up.
Rating: 4 out of 5
By: Woodrow Wilkins
May 18, 2010
In a period when many new recordings feature trios, quartets or other small ensembles, it’s refreshing when a full-size orchestra comes along. Pianist, composer and arranger Earl MacDonald offers that refreshment with Re:Visions—Works for Jazz Orchestra. MacDonald is a native of Winnipeg, Canada and director of jazz studies at the University of Connecticut. A winner of several awards, MacDonald spent two years as musical director, pianist andarrangerfor the Maynard Ferguson Big Bop Nouveau Band. He composed six of the nine selections on Re:Visions, for a17-piece ensemble that’s conducted by Mike Holober. One of the covers is “Friday Night at the Cadillac Club,” a swinging, blues-jazz piece. The brass carry the lead in a brilliant fashion. The syncopation between the trumpets and the drums is tight. Solos are by guitarist Pete McCann and drummer Jordan Perlson. Although bassist Kenny Davis doesn’t solo, his presence is felt throughout. “Mr. Sunshine,” an original that was commissioned by the USAF Airmen of Note in 2003, begins with some rim shots setting pace, muted trumpets and soft horns. Solos are by Joe Magnarelli on trumpet, Jim Brenan on tenor sax and Perlson. One of the highlights is when Brenan puts the tenor through a series of rapid-note rolls. “Bu Who,” another of MacDonald’s compositions, features more engaging stick work by Perlson and bass lines by Davis. Michael Philip Mossman solos on muted trumpet. Trombonist Craig Brenan also solos. The constants throughout Re:Visions are MacDonald’s arrangements and his piano play. However, the beauty of this collection is the diversity of talent. The songs vary not only in composition, but also in the different voices by the soloists.
By: Edward Blanco
May 2, 2010
There are far too few big band albums being recorded these days, so it is with great appreciation that the music of professor Earl MacDonald finds its way to the studio for lovers of the genre to enjoy. Harnessing the talents of a 17-piece, world-class orchestra, MacDonald—a composer/arranger/pianist and director of Jazz Studies at the University of Connecticut—manages to produce a scintillating frame of big band orchestrations on Re:Visions. No stranger to the big band arena, MacDonald is an award-winning arranger who served as musical director for the Maynard Ferguson Big Bop Nouveau Band, and also leads the University of Connecticut Jazz Ensemble. Accordingly, it is not his fine skills as a pianist that make this album worthy, but the brilliant compositions and perky arrangements that make the music special. Kicking off with “Friday Night At The Cadillac Club,” a chart for which MacDonald received the 2002 Sammy Nestico Award for Outstanding Big Band Arranging, guitarist Pete McCann and drummer Jordan Perlson provide the fuel that propels the piece. Commissioned by the USAF Airmen of Note in 2003, “Mr. Sunshine” delivers a more sophisticated sound, inserting an aggressive horn section with trumpeter Joe Magnarelli and tenor saxophonist Jim Brenan. MacDonald’s appropriately titled “Measuring Up” highlights a slew of soloist including former Rolling Stones saxophonist Tim Ries on soprano and Ralph Bowen on tenor, with Steve Kenyon blowing the baritone as McCann reels off a rock-like guitar riff on a number that measures up as one of the best on the disc. MacDonald emerges on the piano in a “Bad Dream”—a buoyant lively piece diced with a slice of brass, the drummer’s stick work, and the performance of some free-style improvisational lines or a portion of contrafact melodies drawn from the standard “You Stepped Out of A Dream,” all marking this tune as anything but sleepy. In an arrangement originally written for Maynard Ferguson, “Joshua” is tastefully introduced by bassist Kenny Davis , and takes off on Bowen’s searing tenor lines, moving into mid-tempo territory that sounds quite like a number the Ferguson band would have performed. Dizzy Gillespie’s “Woody n’ You” is given a Latin jazz treatment, providing Magnarelli and Bowen more solo space on this lively burner. The big band orchestrations continue with three more pieces—all highlighting the various aspects of MacDonald’s arranging skills. From sweet ballads to brassy instrumental pieces, MacDonald’s Re: Visions offers a collection of highly expressive and challenging music, in the tradition of modern big band jazz.
The Hartford Courant
By: Chuck Obuchowski
May 4, 2010
“Re:Visions” is a listener-friendly recital of contemporary big-band music, reflecting the work of an artist at the height of his creative powers. From the dance-inducing shuffle of “Friday Night at the Cadillac Club” to the complex intensity of “Measuring Up,” all these tunes invite repeated listening. “Joshua,” made famous by Miles Davis in 1963, receives a sparkling revision while retaining the punchy swing of the original. Two of MacDonald’s instructors at Rutgers University — saxophonist Ralph Bowen and trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman — offer outstanding solos here, as does the bandleader, whose keyboard work has never sounded better. The Winnipeg native explains the vision aspect of his “Re:Vision” endeavor in a note on his website ( www.earlmacdonald.com ): “to create an original body of work for jazz orchestra which is devoid of the traditional and habitual clichés so prevalent in the published repertoire for this instrumentation.” The new release succeeds on these terms, thanks both to MacDonald’s writing and arranging and to the high caliber of the musicianship. “Bad Dream,” based on the harmonic progression of the standard “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” was originally drafted as a demonstration for a jazz composition class lecture at UConn. This expanded arrangement is bolstered by a crafty alto sax statement by Tim Ries and intricate rhythms from Jordan Perlson. The young drummer maintains a potent presence throughout the session. One of the most distinctive voices on “Re:Vision” is that of guitarist Pete McCann. His searing, effects-laden solo during “Measuring Up” is a standout moment on the new release. Also providing strong support in the rhythm section throughout is bassist Kenny Davis, who was one of MacDonald’s UConn colleagues at the time of this session, November 2008.
Jazz Inside™ Monthly
By: Bob Gish
Right out of the chute you know this is a polished, big sounding big band with charts to die for and a cadre of musicians ready to deliver. “Friday Night at the Cadillac Club” sets the tone with Pete McCann’s shredding, out-front solo announcing that not just McCann but the entire ensemble is ready to play. “Mr. Sunshine” opens just as powerfully with a drum lead in and solo by Jordan Perlson and a trio of golden-throated trumpets in this shinny tune previously commissioned by the USAF Airmen of Note in 2003. Jim Brenan’s tenor sax solo counters Joe Magnarelli’s trumpet solo, emphasizing the “all for one, one for all” unity of the band, all on board for full flight. Saxes and guitar take center stage in “Measuring Up” in a mood changer accented by ample percussive effects. Steve Kenyon’s baritone sax adds just the right flavor to the mix in contrast with the unworldly sounds of McCann’s amped-up axe. Seldom have twenty or so musicians had so much to revel in and as each of the nine tunes go by you hear some beautiful sounds in the best of combinations, maximizing the potential of modern jazz orchestra arranging and playing. Earl MacDonald’s piano appears as a solo instrument about mid-way through, reinforcing the talents of the entire rhythm section, and in “Bad Dream” Jordan Perlson’s throbbing drum solo point you, stumbling and fumbling, to the night-time medicine cabinet. Then, once the Excedrin is reached, things settle down Kenny Davis on string bass makes his entrance on track five, adding to the impressive showing of the entire rhythm section, often sidelined by some big band arrangements. “Joshua,” shows just how essential such a section can be when battle time comes. Earl MacDonald shares solos with Kenny Davis on “Character Defect,” demonstrating in the most satisfying way just what kindred spirits piano and bass can be, while the group provides the needed obbligato. Craig Brenan and Mark Patterson demonstrate that trombones claim a place of honor too in such nifty arrangements, in “Bu Who” and “Jana’s Song” respectively. Say in again, and play it again, the Earl MacDonald Orchestra is one fine sounding group of musical stalwarts!
Jersey Jazz Journal
Journal of the New Jersey Jazz Society
EARL MacDONALD is an outstanding jazz educator, composer and arranger who currently teaches at the University of Connecticut. Although originally from Canada, he has some roots in New Jersey, having earned his Master’s Degree in Music Education from Rutgers University. He spent the years 1998-2000 as the musical director, pianist and arranger for the Maynard Ferguson Big Bop Nouveau Band . Re: Visions (Death Defying Records – 0004) finds his impressive big band, conducted by Mike Holober, exploring nine of his arrangements, six for original compositions, plus his takes on Bob Berg’s “Friday Night at the Cadillac Club,” Victor Feldman’s “Joshua,” and Dizzy Gillespie’s Woody ‘n You”. MacDonald’s interesting and exciting charts lie easily on the ear, offering ample space for the soloists. Almost all of the 17 members of the band receive solo space, and they each show a talent for improvisational creativity. Among the more familiar names on the band are trumpeters Michael Philip Mossman and Joe Magnarelli, saxophonists Mark Phaneuf and Ralph Bowen and bass trombonist Doug Purviance. This is not a swing band, but it is one that would be a pleasure to catch in concert playing the kind of superb music found on Re: Visions.
By: Marc Myers
April 25, 2010
Good big bands are rare these days for obvious reasons. They’re prohibitively expensive and it’s hard to get the same players to show up for rehearsals. Earl MacDonald has found a magic formula on his new CD Re: Visions: Works for Jazz Orchestra. MacDonald, director of jazz studies at the University of Connecticut, wrote six of the nine tracks and arranged them all. In 2002, he won the Sammy Nestico Award for outstanding big band arranging, and it’s easy to hear why. Every single track has been carefully thought out and there’s zero rambling or solo padding. Just smart, economical writing and fabulous blowing. I’m a big fan of Mr. Sunshine and Joshua.
All About Jazz
By: Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 17, 2010
Re: Visions Earl MacDonald | Death Defying Records (2010)
The big band era ended long ago, but the world is a better place because people like pianist Earl MacDonald still yearn to keep it alive in some way. MacDonald—a composer, arranger, pianist and Director of jazz studies at the University of Connecticut—is probably best known for his work in jazz education and his time spent with Maynard Ferguson, serving as musical director, pianist and arranger for the trumpet titan. Despite his considerable skills behind the piano, it’s his composing and arranging chops that will raise eyebrows here.
MacDonald immediately establishes his group as a force to be reckoned with— delivering the short and punchy “Friday Night At The Cadillac Club.” MacDonald’s writing here is a marriage of Gordon Goodwin’s feisty charts and a Count Basie-worthy rhythm section, with drummer Jordan Perlson acting as the engine that powers this locomotive. At some points, MacDonald uses the power of this potent horn section to push the music forward, while other moments allow the trumpets, trombones and saxophones to pass riffs to one another in some exciting, brisk exchanges. Guitarist Pete McCann adds some left-of-center solo ideas and his cutting tone adds a different sound to the more traditional elements within this big band.
While the opener is a short burst of energy, the remainder of the album explores a wide variety of musical ideas, colors and textures. Some slippery soprano saxophone work from Tim Ries and more slicing guitar lines from McCann prove to be the highlights on “Measuring Up.” Following some dark cymbal rolls here, Jordan Perlson moves to a drum-n-bass style groove and the character of this piece, like so many others on the album, continues to evolve and develop right through to the unsettling chord at the end. ”Bad Dream” begins with some tasty, swinging lines—think of an updated version of Basie’s “New Testament” band—but it eventually descends into a disturbing nightmare, as implied by the title. The collage-like nature here—fusing chaos with classy vignettes—is reminiscent of some of Carl Stalling’s cartoon music and the playful attitude helps make this piece so appealing.
A spicy, salsa take on Dizzy Gillespie’s “Woody ‘N You” gives trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen and McCann a chance to unleash some expressive and jubilant solo work. MacDonald wrote “Jana’s Song” as a gift to his wife on their wedding day. Trombonist Mark Patterson’s inviting sound and Ries’ elegant alto work leisurely move over this waltz as the light woodwind textures and warm brass set the mood. Overlapping woodwind lines, with a welcome bass clarinet presence from Steve Kenyon, and mellow flute work help to lend a gentler sound to certain sections of this piece. While this big band can swing with the best of them, MacDonald’s decision to brand the group as a “jazz orchestra,” proves to be telling and apt. Re: Visions goes beyond where most big bands go and the music here establishes Earl MacDonald as a major force in the world of jazz composition.
By: Mark Corroto
April 15, 2010
There is a reason that the saying, “keeping it fresh” is rarely uttered in the same sentence as “17-piece jazz orchestra”—because a large orchestra in the world of jazz tends to maneuver about as delicately as an army deploys. Well, that is unless your jazz army is under the direction of Earl MacDonald. He commands his troops on Re:Visions to be both flexible and nimble. This buoyant recording is a big band record for those who prefer the dexterity of smaller groups, but dig the beefy energy of multiple players.
MacDonald is the director of jazz studies at the University of Connecticut, a former apprentice to pianist Kenny Barron and musical director for Maynard Ferguson. His gift for arranging is to avoid the big band clichés and boilerplate jargon, as he does on “Bad Dream.” He re-imagines “You Stepped Out Of A Dream” by collaging various jazz quotes into an entirely new speech with differing time signatures.
MacDonald’s arranging plays off a sleight of hand that can only be accomplished with skilled artists. He assembles some heavy hitters to record this disc, including saxophonists Tim Ries and Ralph Bowen, trumpeters Michael Philip Mossman and Joe Magnarelli, guitarist Pete McCann, and bassist Kenny Davis.
Of the ten tracks, six were penned by MacDonald, with one each from Bob Berg, Victor Feldman, and Dizzy Gillespie. Berg’s “Friday Night at the Cadillac Club” shuffles a tightly knitted blues that features jazz’s version of the poor man’s James Bond on guitar, as McCann delivers a searing solo around Jordan Perlson’s high energy drumming. That energy is refocused on “Mr. Sunshine,” as more of an intricate ensemble sound develops. MacDonald shows his skills as an arranger, sewing multiple horn lines with Magnarelli’s trumpet and Jim Brennan’s tenor saxophone.
MacDonald takes Feldman’s “Joshua,” from Miles Davis’ classic Seven Steps To Heaven (Columbia, 1963) and keeps his orchestra’s ornamentation to a minimum, so as to feature the soloists—Bowen, trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman, and himself on piano. If he had heard this version, Davis might have reconvened his Birth of The Cool band. Likewise, Gillespie would be pleased with the saucy salsa version of “Woody ‘N You.” The orchestra’s lithe touch belies its size. It is only when the power is turned up that its size becomes more prevalent.
As a composer, MacDonald is an adroit melody maker. It is easy to imagine his tribute to Art Blakey, “Bu Who,” or the waltzing “Jana’s Song,” played by a by a trio. His “keep it simple” writing style is anything but plain. It’s just like his arranging—natural and flowing.
By: Mark Saleski
April 6, 2010
Jazz Tasting Menu, Plate #4: Subtle Ingredient Matching Earl MacDonald – Re: Visions
Subtitled “Works for Jazz Orchestra,” this album showcases the arranging talents of Earl MacDonald as well as a stellar cast of cohorts. I have to be honest here and say that big-ish bands are not usually my thing. That is, unless they’re doing something “odd” (see: Carla Bley, The Either Orchestra). This recording grabbed me from the first note, specifically, the giant horn blast that opens “Friday Night At The Cadillac Club.” There are a lot of styles to consider here, from the blues of that opening track to the joyous swing of “Bu Who.” The ears must always be trusted though, and they pick “Character Defect” as the standout. It’s one of those pieces that has a lot of inner detail. There’s a lot going on and yet the theme, built over time, is never lost to the individual moments. MacDonald’s piano playing is terrific here.
By: George W Carroll
March 25, 2010
Visions indeed!! Pianist-composer-arranger Earl MacDonald is in the strictest sense of the word an artistic visionary. He plies us with his talents with his crisp, tight, and totally animated big band taking us through a delightful sojourn of his finely tuned and toned original compositions! The musical drama here is certainly expressive and the syncopation exciting and effective! MacDonald’s effort is appropriately broad, massive and in a word… Imposing. His heart and soul is in his work and through this effect we get a pictorial and striking effect with all the attendant color, harmony, and melody contained therein. This whole project is a study in admiration, sincerity, and certainly passion.
Volume 33/Number 147
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
March 28, 2010
Here’s a piano man that knows what it is to have a big band sound loaded with swing and grooving moving. Kicking it off in high gear right from the start, the chops fly and you can’t help but feel good. Simply fun jazz that is timed right for ushering in warm weather as it sounds like riding through the country with the top down on long stretches of Route 66. It’s all here in fine form and it’s a lot more fun to listen to than talk about so, if you’ll excuse me while I slip my headphones back on… Yeah, the good times are rolling. 4
The Urban Flux …simply the best jazz you’ve never heard
By: Rob Young,
March 30, 2010
On this enticing musical journey aptly titled “Re:VISIONS,” MacDonald demonstrates way he’s revered as a unwavering accompanist/improviser whose also been compared to such jazz greats as Don Sebesky, Mike Abene and Slide Hampton according to trumpet legend Maynard Ferguson. MacDonald scores six originals of the nine selections with one co-authored by the late jazz saxophonist Bob Berg … the tunes by MacDonald remarkably capture his vision of marrying these detailed works for a jazz orchestra.
Out of the gate MacDonald and the band roar feverishly with the blues infected “Friday Night at the Cadillac Club.” MacDonald and his amazing 17-piece jazz orchestra ounce for ounce seriously employ their skills playing some fabulous jazz here … you can’t approach songs like this unless you do!!
At the interlude of “Mr. Sunshine,” MacDonald redefines the tempo as the focal point of his arranging skills graciously identifies his purpose in tone superbly utilizing the extraordinary cast of players interplay is reminiscent of the arrangements by the aforementioned artists mentioned in paragraph two. This remarkable piece features a-plus players like Jim Brenan on tenor, Jordan Perlson – drums and Joe Magnarelli plays the trumpet.
“Measuring Up,” lends itself to the virtuosity of MacDonald’s playing and once again his arrangement fits flawlessly. Features on this track are Ralph Bowen on tenor, Tim Reis – soprano, and Steve Kenyon– baritone sax … they intertwine their voices seamlessly as soloist later joined by guitarist Pete McCann as he inserts a Metheny like voicing to add color and texture.
The big band vibe of “Bad Dream” is a bouncy gem which captures the essence of back in the day accented with a poignant altitude by this fascinating jazz orchestra. Alto saxophonist Tim Reis intercedes successfully as his melodious timbre flows with pitch perfect fluidity on this marvelous tune.
As I hear it “Re:VISIONS,” distinctively and effortlessly qualifies as Jazz 101. MacDonald underscores the dimensions of jazz with intensity coupled with vibrant orchestral arrangements on this exquisite palette of music from beginning to the end. Case in point … “Joshua” originally composed by Victor Feldman and arranged by MacDonald glows with effervesce precision allowing room for the musicians to express their voices within the context embracing relevant musical nuances that consistently satisfies my taste buds for good jazz.
“Woody ‘n You” penned by jazz great Dizzy Gillespie fuses the rudiments of jazz and Latin music superbly. Amazingly, MacDonald reinvents this undeniably fresh Latin inspired jazz tune with a hint of Salsa stitched around the edges also with a splash of Mambo tossed in for flavoring supersedes my expectations!
On the tastefully melodic “Character Defect,” MacDonald says: “I find that improvisation/composition and problem solving are intrinsically related.” Bingo … he unpacks this musical dilemma masterfully to unleash and approachable listener friendly jewel linking two ideas into one captivating gem.
“Bu Who,” is a tribute to the belated jazz drummer extraordinaire Art Blakely. Art was boldly considered by his peers as the godfather of grooming future musical legacies to explore the realm of jazz from within their own cosmic voices successfully. The validity in sound expressed here by the soloist features Michael Mossman – trumpet, Craig Brenan – trombone and MacDonald on piano clearly states the importance of knowing the language of jazz and defining it with a profound sensitivity.
The warm and sensitive tone of “Jana’s Song” closes out this magnificent session by Earl MacDonald and friends. MacDonald described this tune as being a “gentle jazz waltz.” Consequently, this jewel was written and arranged by MacDonald for his wife and wedding ceremony! Obviously heartfelt, this gem offers a lingering serene affect which captures the beauty of this moment perfectly. He later transcribed this piece into a full – blown orchestra arrangement which was selected as a finalist for the Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Award in 2007.
After in depth listening to “Re:VISIONS,” … I’m delighted to say without hesitation this recording by Earl MacDonald is a more then welcomed addition to my music collection. The music on “Re:VISIONS” has volumes of complex shapes and patterns transforming this mesmerizing recording into near perfect symmetry through the vessel of improvisation, elegant arrangements and impressive musicianship by an artist who fully understands the art of making music.