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Frank Macchia

Born and raised in San Francisco, CA., Frank started on the clarinet at the age of ten years old. Soon afterward he began studies on bassoon, saxophone and flute. By the age of fourteen he began studying composition, writing jazz and classical pieces for his high school band and orchestra and for jazz ensembles that rehearsed at the local union hall, including trumpeter Mike Vax’s Big Band. In 1975-76 Frank wrote jazz/classical hybrid works that were performed by the San Francisco Symphony and local professional jazz musicians, and he composed and conducted an orchestral overture for his high school graduation ceremony. During this time period he also performed and arranged music for contemporary dance bands in the Bay Area.

In 1976 Frank attended Berklee College of Music, studying woodwinds with Joseph Viola, Joe Allard, Steve Grossman and composition/arranging with Herb Pomeroy, Phil Wilson, Greg Hopkins, Tony Texiera, and Ken Pullig. From 1976-80 he performed and composed for the top student ensembles as well as performing with his own ensembles. He received a National Endowment Grant for the Arts to compose a 90 minute continuous jazz/classical suite for large ensemble. He also won Down Beat magazine’s DB award for original big band composition in 1979. After graduating with a degree in traditional composition, Frank taught at Berklee at the tender age of 20, as well as performed throughout the New England area with his 8-piece fusion group, ‘Booga-Booga’.

In 1981 Frank moved back to the San Francisco area where he continued working as a musician and composer/arranger over the next ten years, performing concerts with such artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Rita Moreno, Tony Bennett, Jack Jones, Clare Fischer, Chuck Mangione, and the Temptations, to name a few. He performed with local groups such as The Bay Area Jazz Composers Orchestra, Mike Vax’s Great American Jazz Band, Royal Street, the Dick Bright Orchestra and the Melotones. He also led his own original groups, including The Gleets, Desperate Character and The Frankie Maximum Band. In 1989 he recorded Introducing Frankie Maximum, an eclectic CD that showcased original material in a variety of styles, from new wave to polka. He followed that with the CD Frankie Maximum Goes Way-er Out West, a wild romp through traditional cowboy folksongs, done with new treatments. This 1991 album received much critical praise including being named one of the top ten albums of the year by the Oakland Tribune

In 1991 Frank toured Germany performing in West Side Story and 42nd Street, and when that tour ended, he found himself in Los Angeles, where he has remained ever since. Since 1992 he has worked as a composer/orchestrator on many films and television projects, including Superman Returns, Pirates of the Carribean 3, The Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer, The Guardian, Miracle, X2-Xmen United, Men of Honor, Hide and Seek, Austin Powers:Goldmember, The Contender, The Apt Pupil, Santa Clause 2, and television shows Night Visions, Nickelodeon’s Oh Yeah Cartoons, Disney’s Oliver Twist, and the Tonight Show. From 1997-2001 he created Little Evil Things, a series of critically acclaimed audio horror stories with music. In 2004 he attended the Sundance Composers Lab. Macchia has recorded a series of eclectic original projects featuring some of the best musicians in Los Angeles as well as European orchestras.

In 2003 he released The Galapagos Suite, a set of 6 pieces, each capturing his musical impression of one of the species that inhabit the Galapagos Islands.[4] The record features Macchia (Woodwinds and Synthesizers), Billy Childs (Piano) Valarie King (Flutes), Beverly Dahlke-Smith (Bassoon) Grant Geissman (Guitar), Alex Iles, Ken Kugler, and Bruce Fowler, (Trombones). While this recording was generally received as a ‘new age’ project, Macchia had begun his exploration of unusual instrumental combinations, particularly low register brass and woodwind instruments.

In 2004 Macchia released Animals which continued to explore his interest in Program Music and Leitmotif. Each piece is named after an animal, Tigers, Gorillas, Camels, etc. Specific instruments and thematic ideas are used to represent the personality of each animal, for example; the tuba playing the role of the Hippo. The pieces cover a wide range of musical styles, from accessible modern jazz to evolving, complex Brazilian influenced arrangements. Macchia blends complex polyrhythms and intricately layered ensemble passages with open solo sections, relaxed grooves, and splashes of musical humor. The ensemble, augmented by: Wayne Bergeron (Trumpet and Flugelhorn), Scott Breadman (Percussion) Dave Carpenter (Bass), Stephanie Fife (Cello) Mark Isham (Trumpet) Tracy London (Voice) and former Frank Zappa sideman, Vinnie Colaiuta (Drums), is well suited for the technical challenges of Macchia’s music.

Mo’ Animals was released in 2006, in many ways a continuation of Macchia’s 2004 release. The recording uses most of the same musicians with the notable addition of the virtuosic Howard Levy (best known as a founding member of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones) on Harmonica.

In 2006 Macchia released Emotions, another highly programatic project in which each piece is loosely inspired by a primary human emotion. The recording features Macchia performing with the Prague Orchestra conducted by Adam Klemens. This recording also revisits Macchia’s recurring interest in American folk music with arrangements of Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair and The Lonesome Road. Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair was nominated in the Best Instrumental Arrangement category of the 50th GRAMMY Awards.

Macchia followed up Emotions with another Prague Orchestra collaboration in his 2007 release, Landscapes. Michael G. Nastos of AllMusicGuide compares this recording to Cityscapes, the 1982 collaboration between arranger Claus Ogerman and saxophonist Michael Brecker. Macchia again mixes original compositions with explorations of traditional American Folk Music with arrangements of Shenandoah, Deep River and Down in the Valley, which was nominated in the Best Instrumental Arrangement category of the 51st Grammy Awards.

In 2008 Macchia released one of his most unusual recordings, Saxolollapalooza[7] features six saxophones and drums playing music in a wide variety of styles. The saxophones play all parts of the arrangements including the bass lines. The group consists of Eric Marienthal (Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute), Sal Lozano (Alto Sax, Piccolo, Clarinet), Bob Sheppard (Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Flute), Frank Macchia (Tenor Sax, Bari Sax, Flute, Alto Flute, Clarinet, Contrabass Clarinet) Gene Cipriano (Bari Sax, Clarinet, Flute), Jay Mason (Bass Sax, Bass Clarinet), and Peter Erskine (Drums, Percussion). All but one piece are covers including Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian’s, Air Mail Special, Michael Jackson’s, Working Day and Night, Allen Toussaint’s Java, (which had been a mega-hit for trumpeter Al Hirt), Creole Love Call attributed to Duke Ellington, and Work Song by Nat Adderley. The record continues Macchia’s work with traditional American folk songs with arrangements of Down by the Riverside, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, and Shortening Bread.

In 2010 Macchia dove head first into his jazz treatments of traditional American folk songs with Folk Songs for Jazzers. This recording features fourteen tracks: I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, Red River Valley, Skip to My Lou, Oh, Susanna, Did You Ever See a Lassie?, Polly Wolly Doodle, Tom Dooley, The Arkansas Traveller, Amazing Grace, The Erie Canal, Hush Little Baby, The Blue Tail Fly, Kumbaya, and On Top of Old Smokey . The album features a big band of Los Angeles musicians: Wayne Bergeron (Flugelhorn, Trumpet), Peter Erskine (Drums), Ray Frisby (Percussion and Vibraphone), Grant Geissman (Banjo and Electric Guitar), Ellis Hall (Vocal on Amazing Grace), Trey Henry (Acoustic and Electric Bass), Alex Iles (Baritone Horn, Trombone, Tuba), Valarie King (Bass Flute), Sal Lozano (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Flute, Bass Flute, Piccolo, Alto Saxophone), Frank Macchia (Clarinet, Alto Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Contrabass Clarinet, Flute, Alto Flute, Bass Flute, Contrabass Flute, Piccolo, Tenor Sax), Jay Mason (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Flute, Bass Flute, English Horn, Piccolo, Baritone Saxophone, Bass Saxophone), Kevin Porter (Baritone Horn, Trombone, Bass Trombone, Tuba), Tom Ranier (Piano, Electric Piano), Bill Reichenbach (Baritone Horn, Trombone, Bass Trombone, Tuba), Bob Sheppard (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Flute, Alto Flute, Bass Flute, Piccolo, Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone), Tierney Sutton (vocal, Red River Valley).

In addition to the unique choice of material, this recording showcases Macchia’s interest in unusual instrumental combinations and the use of high and low register members of the brass and woodwind families not typically utilized in big band music.

Macchia’s arrangement of Skip To My Lou earned him his third Grammy nomination in the Best Instrumental Arrangement category of the 53rd Grammy Awards.

In 2011 Macchia released SON of Folk Songs For Jazzers, Chapter 2 of his 2010 big band project. This recording features the same musicians featured on the first release with the substitution of Michael Hatfield (Vibraphone, Marimba, Bass Marimba, Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Tambourine, Shaker) for Ray Frisby.

SON of Folk Songs for Jazzers features Macchia’s innovative arrangements of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star; Careless Love; two versions of Three Blind Mice; Itsy, Bitsy, Spider; Work Song Medley (Pick a Bale of Cotton; Shortnin’ Bread); Silver Dagger; Medley: (Cindy; Li’l Liza Jane); Frankie and Johnny; Billy Boy; This Old Man (featuring a striking, gravely vocal performance by Macchia); and The Boating Medley (Michael Row Your Boat Ashore; Row, Row, Row Your Boat).

In 2012/2013 Macchia released 2 two CDs of his original Funk/Jazz/New Orleans styled music called Swamp Thang and Fried Zombie Stew, featuring Eric Jensen and Ken Rosser on guitars, John Rosenberg on keyboards, Tom Lockett on bass, Frank Briggs on drums with guest appearances by Wayne Bergeron (trumpet) and Alex Iles (trombone), with Macchia on saxes and woodwinds.

Jan 2014 finds a new large ensemble release “Grease Mechanix” featuring Eric Marienthal, Brandon Fields, Bob Sheppard, Macchia, Sal Lozano, Jay Mason on reeds, Wayne Bergeron, Dan Fornero, Walt Fowler on trumpets, Alex Iles, Kevin Porter, Craig Gosnell on trombones, Bill Reichenbach on tuba, Ken Rosser on ele. guitar, Peter Erskine on drums and Brad Dutz on percussion. This band’s concept is like a New Orleans Brass Band meets Tower of Power and Frank Zappa! The album also features some vocals by Macchia.