The result is worth all of the risk, however, and Blujazz (BJ3432) has captured the phenomenal venture from August, 2014 at Umbrella Media Studio in Chatsworth, California. For those in attendance, the solo is obvious but, for those listening to the recording, it sounds like he has an accompaniment with him he creates baselines, counterpoint, you name it, to create a more than solo impression.
MacDonald uses standards, medleys and or original compositions to illustrate his point that, sometimes, a solo guitar is all you need.
The album opens with Nancio Herb Brown’s “You Stepped Out of a Dream.” He uses baroque strategies of opposing melodies to create a duet effect. More than an exercise in virtuosity, it is a meeting of heart, mind and skill to the light the listener.
“Triste” is the classic from Antonio Carlos Jobim. The melody plays off the baseline in gorgeous display of Jobim’s fine original. On the one hand, MacDonald makes you wish that you could see him perform this. On the other hand, I would not want to get caught up in watching his technique and miss the beauty of the music.
“Umbrella Waltz” is a MacDonald variation on the theme by Toots Thielemans. He creates a trio effect with Bass and contrapuntal melodic lines. It is a vivace waltz that is energetic and captivating.
Track four is a medley of “I’m Through with Love—Stairway to The Stars—These Foolish Things.” It is exquisitely delivered in lovely intonations and phrasing. The strum-slide-pick approach is delightful.
“If I Had You” follows. Is a touch of blues and is more wistful, even whimsical, than melancholy with a whiff of “My Favorite Things.”
Jobim ‘s “Wave” comes next. It is one of my favorite Jobim tunes. The melody is charming and MacDonald knows how to work it. He takes the theme apart and reconstructs it with fine artistry.
Another medley, “Autumn in New York—Chatsworth Minor Blues” is a union of Vernon Duke and Doug MacDonald himself as composers. The shift in tone and tempo is handled seamlessly by MacDonald.
David Raskin’s “Laura” has MacDonald on guitar with an overdubbed banjo. Great fun.
The medley of “Gentle Rain-Corcovado” is a meeting of two titans of guitar composition, Luis Banfa and, again, Jobim. Again, MacDonald knows precisely how best to interpret these masters in a new expression without betraying the originals. His approach here is different but absolutely fitting.
The “Out of Nowhere—The Song Is You” medley is a sweet pairing of Johnny Green and Jerome Kern. As one might expect the swing is cool and the delivery of the melody is spot on.
Victor Young’s “I Don’t Stand A Ghost of a Chance with You” is a bit of melancholy against rapid runs followed by strolling blues. Unevenly paced, like a lonesome lament, the emotions are allowed the upper hand.
“Blues in The World” is a Doug McDonald original. It is charming and expressive. This is an absolutely delightful foray into varied approaches to blues. Well structured and flawlessly executed.
"Bandera" follows. Another McDonald original, he brings along his nylon-string acoustic guitar to accompany the electric guitar. A pretty partnership of the two, "Bandera" makes fine use of both sounds and we've been together into a semi—Samba that sounds so good.
The album ends with Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Darn That Dream.” Just to include this song as the clothes after using “You Stepped Out of a Dream” is hilarious. It certainly frames the tracks in between and bags reinterpretation of those tracks. This track is a beautiful way to end a great album.
Doug McDonald’s “Solo Plus” is certainly more than just solo. He doesn’t just play by himself but alongside himself and, often, against himself in a stunning display of creativity and virtuosity. He makes you think you’re seeing double or, at least, hearing it.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
For more great Jazz, check out blujazz.com.