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L.A. Guitarist Doug MacDonald Releases New Sextet Album

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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!

More from Doug MacDonald


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