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Landscapes

Frank Macchia

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Album Review

As a follow-up to the 2006 CD Emotions, Frank Macchia again teams with the Prague Orchestra for a program of orchestrated music that sails gently and beautifully behind his relaxed and colorful tenor saxophone. For this outing the theme is landscapes, and reflects what a fantasy meeting with Aaron Copland convening alongside the Gil Evans big band might sound like. A consistently lush but never syrupy, wonderfully textured and crafted sound sans any rhythm section rarely challenges Macchia, but they work closely in tandem to create urban, rural, and exotic imagery that is undeniably gorgeous. The CD features several traditional folk melodies familiar to all, two standards, and the six-part "Landscapes Suite." But the proceedings kick off with a spirited late-night tribute to the Big Apple "The Sidewalks of New York." It parallels the 1983 Michael Brecker/Claus Ogerman recording Cityscape. Heading far south, a subdued post-Katrina requiem is offered on the showtune "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans," and "Avalon" is way understated, quite laconic, and frankly just a bit stiff. The folk tunes "Shenandoah," "Down in the Valley," and "Deep River" lend themselves well to the string arrangements, and are superbly rendered. The suite works on different earthly planes, beginning with "Golden Fields" which has an admitted kinship to John Coltrane's "Naima," followed by "Desert Heat" accented by a dumbek player in 7/8 time and a cerebral Arabian feel, leading to the graceful Americana flavored undercurrent 6/8 flow of "River Rapids." A cold, barren "Artic Chill," Afro-classical "Jungle Life" that would make Duke Ellington proud, and the finale "Forest Twilight" with oboe accents and the most neo-classical stance concludes the suite. If you enjoy cool school saxophonists like Stan Getz or Paul Desmond, the Gil Evans/Miles Davis classic "Sketches of Spain," Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez," and the work of Ogerman or Lalo Schifrin, you'll gravitate to this. It's a recording all the participants should be proud of, and those purchasing this music will savor it upon many repeated, satisfying listenings. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

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