Famed jazz guitarist Doug MacDonald has been keeping himself rather busy in the past year or so. He released two new studio recordings and separate live recording in the form of Toluca Lake Jazz, Serenade to Highland Park, and Live in Hawaii. Toluca Lake Jazz and Live in Hawaii were released in 2021 while Serenade to Highland Park dropped last month. He followed the release of all of those recordings this week, with yet another new studio recording, Overtones. Released Tuesday through MacDonald’s own independent label, Dmac Music, the eight-song record takes MacDonald in another new direction as he is joined by the L.A. All-Star Octet. The group presents a distinct big band style and sound throughout the course of the 43-minute presentation that still maintains MacDonald’s trademark sound and style. The combination of those leanings makes the record in whole enjoyable from start to end. The record’s opener, ‘Night By Night’ is just one way in which this is proven. It will be discussed shortly. ‘Rickey Speaking,’ the album’s closer, is another way in which the noted blend of leanings works to the album’s benefit. It will be discussed a little later. ‘Over 21,’ which comes late in the album’s run, is yet another example of what makes it stand out. It will also be discussed later. Each song noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album. When they are considered with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Overtones easily one more of the year’s top new jazz albums.
Overtones, the latest studio offering from famed jazz guitarist Doug MacDonald, is an impressive new addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums. Each of the record’s featured songs does its own share to prove that. Among the most notable of the songs is the album’s opener, ‘Night By Night.’ The song stands out because of the manner in which it blends MacDonald’s trademark jazz guitar sound with the light big band sound of his fellow musicians. The subtle time keeping on the drums alongside the control from the horns and saxophone line makes for such an enjoyable listening experience. MacDonald’s tight performance on the guitar during his solos displays so much control on his part. The whole comes across as a work that one might expect to hear in an upscale jazz night club. Even the addition of the piano line adds its own bouncy accent to the presentation. All things considered, the whole makes this song fully immersive, entertaining and engaging. It makes the song not only a great first impression from MacDonald and company in this album, but also a great example of what makes the album in whole stand out.
‘Night By Night’ is just one of the songs that serves to show what makes Overtones stand out. ‘Rickey Speaking,’ the record’s closer, is yet another notable addition to the record. ‘Rickey Speaking’ stands out because while it is another example of the successful blending of the group’s big band and jazz guitar sounds and styles, it bears its own identity separate from the record’s opener and its other tracks. Yes, that light touch is there again on all fronts. The thing is that in the case of this song, it has more swing in it presentation. The driving saxophone solos, the light, bouncy piano solo and the equally controlled but still energetic time keeping all come together here to make the composition in whole infectious and enjoyable. Where a song, such as ‘Night By Night’ is more relaxed and perfect for background music, this song is more interactive. It urges audiences to get up off their feet and dance along. That is really the big difference. It is just as enjoyable as ‘Night By Night’ and the rest of the album’s songs. To that end, it shows even more, why the album in whole is so enjoyable.
‘Night By Night’ and ‘Ricky Speaking’ are just a couple examples of what makes Overtones such an enjoyable new offering from Doug MacDonald. ‘Over 21,’ which comes late in the album’s run, is yet another example of what makes the album so enjoyable. It might sound odd, but this song stands strong on the back of its drums. The almost hip-hop style beat established by the drums gives the song such a unique edge and approach separate (again) from everything else in this record. It is more of a modern touch than that of the album’s other works. The pairing of the trombone line and piano alongside that kick from the drums conjures thoughts of the streets of Harlem, as does the saxophone solo. Between all of that and the organ line, the whole here is completely unlike anything else featured in Overtones and blends so well together. The result is another wonderful addition to the album that gives audiences so much to enjoy. When it is considered along with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole proves itself unquestionably one of the best new jazz albums of 2022 so far.
Doug MacDonald and the L.A. All-Star Octet’s new album, Overtones, is a presentation that does everything right. From beginning to end, the album offers so much variety in its compositions. Each song is different from the others from one to the next. At the same time, each composition also does so well to blend MacDonald’s familiar jazz guitar styles with more of a big band style and sound. That solid balance of sounds and styles, together with the originality in each composition’s sound and style, makes the album in whole a record that audiences will enjoy from start to end time and again. It makes the album in whole, again, among the best new jazz records of 2022 so far.
Overtones is available now through MacDonald’s own independent label, Dmac Music. More information on the record is available along with all of MacDonald’s latest news at:
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