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Frank Macchia: Saxolollapalooza

Frank Macchia's Saxolollapalooza crew (L-R): Eric Marienthal, Jay Mason, Sal Lozano, Frank Macchia, Peter Erskine, Gene Cipriano, Bob Sheppard

If the Loudhorns are poised to go without sax, then reed fanatic Frank Macchia is willing to kiss his brass goodbye to achieve his muscular Saxolollapalooza sound. The project began in 1990 after Macchia bought himself a bass saxophone and had the notion to craft arrangements for two altos, two tenors, a bari and his anchoring bass, plus drums. Once he had recorded some demos, the wild concept, dubbed “a sax section on steroids” in Cacophony’s PR kit, steeped in Macchia’s attic for the better part of 18 years.

Seven of the 12 arrangements on this CD are from that original stash. Along with a soprano sax wielded by altoist Eric Marienthal, numerous clarinets, flutes and piccolo enrich the instrumental palette. We ease into this set with Benny Goodman’s “Air Mail Special” as Peter Erskine on drums lays down a hip-hop beat. Then we head to the Delta with “Down by the Riverside,” on which solos by Marienthal on alto, Bob Sheppard on tenor, and Sal Lozano on alto spice up the second line groove. “My One and Only Love” provides an oasis of quiet, Gene Cipriano taking the bari solo, before we embark on “Caravan” with Jay Mason’s bass sax solo capturing a little of the Juan Tizol timbre. Watch out here for Macchia’s biting tenor, and Peter Erskine’s congas.

Only a couple of gripes. The piccolo cutesiness of “Java” outstays its welcome, and the infectious “Shortening Bread” shuffle needed more time to rise.

Originally Published