Frank Macchia – Son of Folk Songs for Jazzers – Cacophony, Inc.

by | Feb 27, 2011 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Frank Macchia – Son of Folk Songs for Jazzers – Cacophony, Inc. FMC518, 78:50 *****:

(Frank Macchia – tenor sax, , flute, bass flute, clarinet, alto clarinet, contra bass clarinet, melodica, organ, vocal (#11); Valarie King – piccolo, flute, bass flute;  Sal Lozano – alto sax, flute, alto flute, bass flute, clarinet, bass clarinet;  Bob Sheppard – soprano sax, tenor sax, flute, bass flute, clarinet, bass clarinet;  Jay Mason – baritone sax, soprano sax, bass flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, contra bass clarinet, english horn;  Wayne Bergeron – trumpet, flugelhorn;  Alex Iles – trombone, baritone horn; Kevin Porter – trombone, bass trombone, baritone horn;  Bill Reichenbach – trombone, bass trombone, baritone horn, bass trumpet, tuba;  Tom Ranier – acoustic piano; Grant Geissman – electric guitar; Trey Henry – acoustic bass; Peter Erskine – drums, motivation;  Michael Hatfield – vibraphone, marimba, bass marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, tambourine, shaker; special guests: Tierney Sutton – vocals, “Silver Dagger”; Ellis Hall – vocal on “Careless Love”.

You may or may not have heard of Frank Macchia but you probably have heard him play or his music at one time or another.  He was born and raised in San Francisco.  He started playing clarinet at age 10 years.  He started learning bassoon, sax and flute.  He was learning to compose music at age 14.  His composing was in the genres of jazz and classical.  He was composing for his high school band and orchestra and other small groups and ensembles.  He composed music for Mike Vax’s Big Band.  Frank attended Berklee College of Music in the middle 1970’s.  After graduation with a degree in composition he taught at Berklee. He has performed with his own ensembles and has many accolades to his credit.  He performed in concerts with artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Rita Moreno, Tony Bennett, Jack Jones, Clare Fischer, Chuck Mangione and The Temptations.  He toured Germany in the early 1990s performing in West Side Story and 42nd Street.  He settled in Los Angeles and worked as a composer/orchestrator for movies and TV in many well known titles and shows and was with the Tonight Show from 1997 to 2001.  Look at his biography at for a list of his accolades and work.

Son of Folk Songs for Jazzers
may sound a little tame.  It is a follow-up album to the original two-time Grammy nominated album released as Folk Songs for Jazzers in 2010.  When you see titles like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, and “This Old Man” as the songs, you probably don’t expect much.  I started listening and was laughing and had tears of joy for what I was hearing.  It is a 14-piece band of incredibly talented musicians who play really tight together. Frank has orchestrated amazing woodwind choir-like passages through many of the songs.  I have always enjoyed having flutes in the mix in big band compositions and you will get your fair share of that sound.  90% of the musicians are multiple instruments rated.  Several are playing half a dozen instruments each through the album.  Throw in musicians like Tom Ranier, Peter Erskine, 
Wayne Bergeron, Trey Henry and on and on, you cannot ignore what you hear.   As you listen to the beginning of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, it sounds a bit easy-listening.  Frank is just throwing you off guard because it gets amazing.  He has incorporated easy listening, swing, Latin-jazz, fusion, New Orleans and ballads into the album and often within the same tune.  There are vocals by Tierney Sutton, a wonderful singer in her own right on “Silver Dagger”.  Ellis Hall gave a vocal on “Careless Love”. 

What was a great delight for me was “This Old Man”.  Frank did the vocals on this.  In the liner notes he said “I took the vocal on this summoning up my version of Tom Waits, probably after gargling some turpentine!”  Before I read that in the liner notes I thought it was Doctor John.  This version is played in a New Orleans-second line style that got my foot tapping.  This album is truly a gem and deserves a Grammy nomination. I had never heard a contra-bass clarinet.  I played bass clarinet at one time and this contra-bass clarinet was a thrill to hear and when it teamed up with the tuba on this piece it was solid.  The rhythm section as a whole was a delight to hear augmenting the band.  The sound of the recording is wonderfully engineered.

Twinkle,  Twinkle Little Star;  Careless Love;  Three Jazzy Blind Mice;  Itsy Bitsy Spider;  Work Songs Medley;  Silver Dagger;  Three Cool Blind Mice;  Cindy/Lil’ Liza Jane;  Frankie and Johnny;  Billy Boy;  This Old Man;  The Boating Medley.

— Tim Taylor

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