Frank Macchia – Frank Macchia’s Swamp Thang – Cacaphony Records FMC 520, 46:26 ****1/2:
(Frank Macchia – saxophone, woodwinds; John Rosenberg – piano, organ keyboards; Ken Rosser – electric guitar; Eric Jensen – electric guitar; Tom Lockett – electric bass; Frank Briggs – drums, percussion; with guest appearances by Alex Iles – trombone, and Wayne Bergeron – trumpet)
After learning a variety of reed instruments, Frank Macchia found his calling as a band arranger. He has worked with Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Chuck Mangione and a variety of bands and orchestras in his native San Francisco. His proficiency for arrangement has led to work in television (Lost, Desperate Housewives, Commander-In-Chief) film orchestration (Superman 3, 300, Austin Powers: Goldmember, Dream Girls, Enchanted) and a variety of musical performances (Los Lonely Boys, Bonnie Raitt, Brian Wilson, Sarah Vaughan, The Tonight Show Band). As a recording artist, he has released a series of eclectic, theme-laden projects including The Galapagos Suite, Animals, Mo’ Animals and Little Evil Things, as well as collaborations with orchestra (Landscapes, Emotions) and fellow jazz artists (Saxolollapalooza).
In an effort to introduce his new band (and album), Frank Macchia’s Swamp Thang, the veteran composer/arranger lets it all hang out. New Orleans high-step, blues, funk and soul combine in a dizzying collage of hybrid jazz. The opening cut, “Discombobulated” is an electrified, latin groove, that utilizes a swirling mix of horns (and a great sax solo by Macchia), woodwinds, distorted electric guitar and hard blues piano. The group benefits from tight arrangements that establish a sense of controlled pandemonium. “Funky Grease Bucket” sounds like its title with James Brown inspired hooks and horn chorus launched by a primitive baritone sax line that shakes the rafters. This band is versatile and adds spice to each number. The jazzy feel of “Hopscotch” is hard-driving with a tight rhythm section and a scintillating organ solo by John Rosenberg.
Macchia has a refined sense of time signature and instrumental arrangement. The title track conjures up the swamp groove with layered instruments, searing, guitar riffs (Eric Jensen) and funky downbeat. “Chuggin’” executes a “train” jam with pulsating vitality. Shifting to traditional blues, “Sick Shuffle” raises the roof and adds some style with a trombone solo (Alex Iles). Macchia is an excellent saxophonist. His spooky lead on “Rhueben’s Rythmic Rhumba” is inventive and when combined with the spacey church organ creates a bluesy slow dance. His wailing tenor work on “Mumbo Jumbo, Dumbo Gumbo” combines a cinematic feel with New Orleans pretense. “Butterfingers” (with a funk/groove bass line by Tom Lockett) expands on the Crescent City edginess with a throbbing refrain. The album concludes with a no holds barred, freewheeling improvisation (“Upsy Daisy”), which is relentless. Another great bass line and crisp percussion (Frank Briggs) propel this celebratory jam.
Frank Macchia’s Swamp Thang is loud, jagged and a breath of fresh air.
TrackList: Discombobulated; Funky Grease Bucket; Hopscotch; Shhhh!; Mumbo Jumbo, Dumbo Gumbo; Butterfingers; Swamp Thang; Jungle Dance; Chuggin’; Sick Shuffle; Rheubens Rhythmic Rumba; Upsy Daisy
A bona fide jazz legend is celebrated with an all-star documentary soundtrack vinyl soundtrack.