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L.A. Guitarist Doug MacDonald Releases New Sextet Album



JGT contributor Joe Barth talks to LA guitarist Doug MacDonald about his new album, Sextet.

Sextet Session is a wonderful new small combo album by Los Angeles guitarist Doug MacDonald. The album features original compositions by MacDonald in addition to a few choice Standards.  Doug also wrote the arrangements for the trumpet and tenor saxophone.

Street Date: March 1, 2024

JB: The album opens with an upbeat tune “Desert Blues.”  Any aspect of the southern California desert that was an inspiration in composing it.

DM:  Yes, Palm Springs in particular.  It has been a getaway for the Stars and the studio people.

JB:  With “Whispering,” did you have Paul Whiteman’s version in mind or what Dizzy did with it as a foundation for his “Groovin’ High” as you performed it?

DM:  Great question, and both!  We did it as a samba it gave it new life with a Brazilian beat.

JB:  Instead of using your Benedetto archtop you record with a new Fender Telecaster.  What does the Tele allow you to draw out from the music?

DM:  It is a refreshing addition to expressing yourself on the Telecaster.  I avoided using a solid body for years being stuck in a purist’s bag.

JB:  Talk about composing “Gee’s Flat.”  Any hidden meaning in the title?

DM:  It is a malapropism, a play on words.  Like the key of Gb.

JB:  Same thing with “Try Ads” and “Si Miner” and their titles?

DM:  It’s like C minor key in music as opposed to “see coal miner” with a Spanish tinge. (laughter)

JB:  Nice rendition of “You’ve Changed.”  Why did you select that Standard?

DM:  It has such a great melody and chord changes. I felt it would fit the group.

JB:  “AT” is a fun funk number. Talk about the guitar effects you use on it.

DM:  I used some new pedals on the session, but very sparingly.  I also used a synthesizer and a harmonizer.

JB:  Bassist Mike Gurrola and drummer Charles Ruggiero play superbly.  What do you appreciate most about these two musicians?

DM:  I feel that their approach gave us a new direction in the music.  They both supported the soloists with interesting approaches to the art of accompaniment. When they each soloed, I heard a lot of new musical ideas in different directions.   I liked the idea of letting it have a life of its own!  It is a great departure from the mainstream jazz concept!

JB:  Talk about the musical communication you have with pianist Josh Nelson as you perform with him.

DM:  He is so easy to work with.  He also has great musical ideas and wonderful technique.  As a player, his ears are very open and attentive!

JB:  Trumpeter Aaron Janik and tenor player Doug Webb are fine musicians.  What do you appreciate about them as players?

DM:  I like their ability to blend in an ensemble situation. They are also very creative as soloists, always maintaining a very high level!

JB:  With “Bubbles in the Wine,” do you remember seeing that song performed on the Lawrence Welk Show and wanting to do it yourself?

DM:  Actually, I did live gigs with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra after Mr. Welk passed away.  I love the tune. It is an undiscovered treasure!

JB:  What do you find so rewarding about arranging for a sextet with two horns?

DM:  It is so transparent and so gratifying to write for this ensemble. There are unique challenges for the smaller ensemble. There is so much to learn after writing for larger groups!

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