Exactly six months after releasing the aptly titled Big Band Extravaganza, his most expansive and ambitious recording to date, the ridiculously versatile, prolific, eclectic and swinging guitarist/composer Doug MacDonald strips back to an amiable but still often fiery trio setting on Edwin Alley.
His latest homage to special places in Los Angeles – this one the historic location in Old Town Pasadena where the trio performs regularly on Thursday nights – the eminently grooving nine-track collection is stylistically fashioned as a sequel of sorts to his Serenade to Highland Park trio project, which also featured bassist Mike Flick; the drum chair on Edwin Alley is taken by the nimble, alternately sensitive and bustling Kendall Kay.
Though MacDonald saves a plucky and playful yet intricate romp through “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” for the closer, the rest of the set finds the trio exploring a batch of dynamic new MacDonald originals, prominently including tributes to legendary saxophonists Zoot Sims and Pepper Adams (the crisp, infectious minor blues swing “Zoot and Pepper”), famed guitar designer (and foremost maker of archtops) Robert Benedetto (the thoughtful and lyrical ballad “Benedetto’s Theme”) and even (whimsically so) an Italian styled broccoli called “Rapini.”
Other colorful highlights among many are a snappy, percussive 5/4 tune (“Three for Two”) and an easy swinger featuring MacDonald on a high-toned, plucked steel Portuguese guitar known as the Coimbra. Considering the places and styles MacDonald’s muse has led him to over the past five years, it’s exciting to ponder where he’ll take us next!