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  • Jonathan Widran


With the release of Jazz Marathon 4: Live at Hangar 18, the dynamic ensemble concept created originally in Hawaii by jazz aficionado Don Thomson and spearheaded later in Southern California by guitarist and musical director Doug MacDonald reaches fever pitch – and true to its concept, takes buoyant mighty flight - with groove, energy, snazzy improvisations and numerous wild zig zags in tempo and swingability.

Applying the airplane/airport idea to the ever-evolving group via the moniker “Doug Macdonald and the Tarmac Ensemble,” the cover artwork of the Theme Building at LAX and sessions recorded at Hangar 18 at the LAX Marriott is a way to showcase the fact that while this is truly a SoCal based unit, music travels everywhere and these musicians are no doubt scattered geographically with their own careers at any given time.

The double disc affair features Macdonald’s crisp, alternately fluid and snappy guitar work on four different sets with different mixing and matching of the ensemble. While “I Thought About You” is a hypnotic guitar solo and Macdonald’s compositional skills power up full tilt on the opening bustling swing through the flute-fired “San Fernando Blvd,” Macdonald mostly creates seamless ensemble action on a wide variety of Songbook classics (“Dreamsville,” “Lollipops and Roses,” “Maiden Voyage,” “Pennies from Heaven,” “Body & Soul,” “Where or When”) with top session cats including Charlie Shoemake (vibraphone), Joe Bagg (piano), Kendall Kay (drums), Kim Richmond (saxophones, flute), bassists Harvey Newark and John B. Williams and tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard.

Here’s hoping for fresh and exciting new flight plans in the future!

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