The Doug MacDonald Quartet shines and swings on “Organisms”


Los Angeles-based guitarist and composer, Doug MacDonald released his 13th recording in early 2019. Titled “Organisms” it illustrates the style and verve that MacDonald is known for. In total, MacDonald is credited with a total of 15 albums. The recordings represent the performer’s time spent in a variety of ensembles. The group that plays on “Organisms” is considered an organ quartet.

“Organisms” is replete with robust sound and sway-inducing rhythms. The album sounds classic, but contemporary. The quartet that MacDonald has assembled is a tight group that functions like a jazz-swinging machine. The recording is comprised of three originals and seven cover tunes.

MacDonald is joined on “Organisms” by Carey Frank on Hammond B3 Organ, Bob Shephard on tenor saxophone and Ben Scholz on drums. MacDonald rounds out the ensemble on guitar.

Two songs that shouldn’t be missed  on this collection of 10 tracks are “It’s You or No One” and “Jazz for All Occasions.”

About Doug MacDonald, in brief

Originally from Philadelphia, MacDonald’s jazz career began in Hawaii. There, he began playing with jazz veterans Trummy Young and Gabe Balthazar. At the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, MacDonald played with Del Courtney.

Back in the contiguous US, MacDonald continued playing. In Las Vegas, he played with Joe Williams, Carl Fontana, Jack Montrose and Carson Smith. Then, he made his way to Los Angeles. There was already a thriving jazz scene in Los Angeles, and now MacDonald is an integral part of it.

Known as a “player’s player,” MacDonald is know not only for his considerable guitar skills, but also for his integrity. MacDonald divides his time between recording, playing and teaching online lessons. He continues to tour around the US, specifically in those places that were essential to the early years of his career, but has also played internationally.

“It’s You or No One” by The Doug MacDonald Quartet

The guitar chords that open the song are spry and anxious. They come quickly and give way a little, to a shimmery drum, softly rumbling bass, and earnest saxophone. The guitar motifs earn a great deal of attention as they are light and nimble, they seem to circle the soundscape.

The changes in the soundscape are seemingly heralded by the organ. The guitar stops just short of “crying.” The showcases of the guitar and saxophone keep the tension and texture vibrant. There is a clear, swinging feel that makes listeners wants to hear this song over and over.

“Jazz for All Occasions” by Doug MacDonald

An original composition by MacDonald, “Jazz for All Occasions” makes good use of triplets and audiences are lured by the mysterious-sounding beat. Replicated in the saxophone and organ, the rhythm morphs into a classic jazz style, complete with soft thunder of drums to accent the entire soundscape. The guitar is understated until its showcases. In the guitar showcase, the opening rhythm is expanded, and the organ complements the guitar work.

The song sounds like its name. Audiences could imagine the song playing anywhere a person deemed it appropriate to play jazz – – from weekend get togethers to formal dining situations, the soothing, yet lively interplay of instruments makes any occasion perfect for jazz. The triplet motif comes back at the end, and gives a solid finish to the song.



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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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