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Frank Macchia | Mo' Animals

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Mo' Animals

by Frank Macchia

Eclectic jazz for the 21st century- featuring Vinnie Colaiuta, Billy Childs, Dave Carpenter, Howard Levy, Grant Geissman, Bruce Fowler, Wayne Bergeron and more.
Genre: Jazz: Jazz Fusion
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Hummingbirds
8:27 $0.99
2. Monkeys
5:28 $0.99
3. Pigs
7:05 $0.99
4. Bats
8:55 $0.99
5. Frogs
7:23 $0.99
6. Whales
6:05 $0.99
7. Elephants
4:50 $0.99
8. Chickens
7:21 $0.99
9. Rhinos
4:58 $0.99
10. Lions
5:43 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Welcome to Mo' Animals, my tribute to all creatures big and small.
Hummingbirds starts with a wild two part etude portraying the little
birds darting about and then settles into a fast samba featuring
Howard Levy on the diatonic harmonica. Yep, he's playing all those
notes on a non-chromatic harmonica! Next up is Monkeys, a jungle
groove that features Billy Childs on synth accordion. Pigs creates a
loping barnyard roll-in-the-mud feel with Ken Kugler on harmon-muted
bass trombone and me on contrabass clarinet. Bats features
Valarie King's silky flutes. Billy Childs plays a beautiful piano solo
over this AAB form. Frogs is a blues based on an 11/8,10/8 meter. I
play an electric bass clarinet solo, followed by Grant Geissman on
electric guitar and Bruce Fowler on trombone. Richard Schmidt of
Clayzeness Whistleworks created a series of bass ocarinas for me,
which I play on the intro to Whales. This segues to the whales'
"song" with a rich 7 part vocal texture sung by Tracy London, which
represents the ocean's pulse as my bass and contrabass flute sing
the whales melody. Elephants is my homage to the brass voicing
style created by Duke Ellington. Wayne Bergeron on trumpet and
Alex Iles on trombone really get the wailing elephantine thing
going. The multi-metered hoedown of Chickens emulates their
goofy and awkward strut. Vinnie does some amazing brush work
and Grant Geissman makes the banjo pop. On Rhinos, Ken Kugler's bass trombone and my bass and bari saxes combine with Grant's crunchy electric guitar to produce that big tough feel. Lions starts with a fanfare. How else would you introduce the king of the jungle!? Brass dominate this 10/8,12/8 groove. Special thanks to the rock solid rhythm section of Dave Carpenter, Billy Childs and Vinnie Colaiuta throughout the album. Enjoy!
- Frank Macchia, Fall 2005

Frank Macchia - Biography

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 (Ringo as a hip-hop jazz tune!?). 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 productions of West Side Story and 42nd Street, and when that tour was over, 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 Fantastic Four, Miracle, X2-Xmen United, Men of Honor, Eight Legged Freaks, Ghosts of the Abyss, 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. In 2003 he completed The Galapagos Suite, a six movement suite based on the animals of the Galapagos Islands, where he and his wife Tracy visited. His CD, "Animals" was released in Fall 2004, featuring Frank on multi-woodwinds and a roster of some of Los Angeles best musicians. in 2004 he also was a composer-fellow at the 2004 Sundance Composer's Lab. He's just releasing his latest CD, Mo' Animals, a follow-up to Animals featuring Billy Childs, Vinnie Colauita, Howard Levy and many other great jazz musicians. He lives in Burbank, CA with his wife and son Charlie.



to write a review

David Franklin- Jazztimes Magazine

Mo’Animals appeals on purely musical grounds.
Multiwoodwinds specialist Frank Macchia is also a skilled composer, arranger and orchestrator for film and television. Mo’Animals is the third album on which he paints convincing musical pictures of members of the animal kingdom through a combination of often unique instrumentation and various musical styles, including jazz, rock and funk. A listener can easily visualize flitting “Hummingbirds,” wallowing “Pigs,” strutting “Chickens,” gliding “Bats and lumbering “Rhinos” as well as the other five species portrayed.

Macchia plays an array of instruments, often overdubbed, including most of the saxophones, several of the clarinets and flutes, the bass ocarina and synthesizers. Various combinations of trumpets, flutes, electric guitar, banjo, harmonics, synthesizers and human voice over a rhythm section of pianist Billy Childs, bassist Dave Carpenter and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta offer the composer a broad palette.

Aside from its programmatic aspects, Mo’Animals appeals on purely musical grounds. Moods and tempos are diverse, and such elements as form, harmony and rhythm are inventively handled so that the compositions hold the listener’s attention.

Macchia, Childs, harmonica player Howard Levy, trumpeter Wayne Bergeron, trombonist Bruce Fowler and guitarist/banjoist Grant Geissman play strategically placed, well-integrated improvised solos.

James Rozzi- Jazziz Magazine

10 of the most cleverly amusing jazz compositions heard in some time.
Having written two entire CDs of original compositions dedicated to animals (Mo’Animals being the second), it’s safe to say that multi-reedist Frank Macchia is an animal lover who inspires animal lovers. The titles of his songs are simple and strange: "Chickens," "Frogs," "Monkeys" . . .

Yet, Macchia’s photo on the CD booklet looks pretty normal: a pleasant-looking middle-aged jazz cat seated with his tenor saxophone. No sign of jungle man, no wide-angle shot playing the blues to King Kong.

Employing a heavyweight cast of West Coast players – including pianist Billy Childs, guitarist Grant Geissman, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and harmonica sensation Howard Levy – Macchia presents 10 of the craftiest, most cleverly amusing jazz compositions heard in some time. Expertly arranged in the tradition of West Coast jazz at its best, Macchia’s multi-overdubbed fare comes alive. Hyperactive chromatic lines merge into an upbeat samba on "Hummingbird." A playful jungle groove swings into an imaginative fugue on "Monkeys." "Bats" features an array of flutes in flight over a 6/8 pulse that periodically suspends time as the tiny creatures pause to alight.

Macchia is proficient at every reed instrument imaginable (and some unimaginable). The man is a total gearhead, a fact most obvious on two of the most memorable pieces. "Whales" is an eerie yet beautiful ode to the gentle giants, featuring Macchia’s overdubbed bass ocarinas, bass, and contrabass flutes. (Every aquarium should have this playing.) "Pigs" is a slop-happy endeavor featuring Ken Kugler’s muted bass trombone and Macchia’s contrabass clarinet. (His numerous clarinets are his strongest suit as per jazz soloing.) Alternating humorous with heady, the evocative sounds of Mo’Animals might be described as a major musical accomplishment masquerading in a monkey suit.

-- James Rozzi

Jim Santella- Jazz Improv magazine

Highly original, Frank Macchia’s ensembles deliver straight-ahead jazz with a few unusual twists. When was the last time you sat down and listened to a bass ocarina, a contrabass flute, or an electric bass clarinet? Fortunately, the leader blends his large array of woodwind instruments into the fold, allowing his original compositions to flow with mainstream sounds that seem quite familiar. In fact, many of the selections have the sounds found in popular television themes, but without aping. Excuse the pun. Complex time signatures and exotic melodic themes allow the composer to heighten interest while embellishing with a relaxed attitude.

Macchia has considered both instrumental textures and musical themes in portraying his animal subjects. "Pigs" features the Bb contrabass clarinet in a slow swinger that rambles around the room with a laid-back spirit. "Chickens," on the other hand, features clarinet and banjo in a quirky affair with walking bass and a soulful strut. The 11/8, 10/8 meter of "Frogs" keeps things hopping with a fun-loving approach that features Macchia’s electric bass clarinet in a surreal adventure. He captures the voice of the frog through his deep-throated instrument, while the piece drives with the rhythmic intensity of a few dozen of the creatures leaping into the water as you approach. The majestic 10/8, 12/8 groove found in "lions" comes complete with a big band sound anchored by Macchia’s tenor saxophone.

From San Francisco, the woodwind virtuoso and composer attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, graduating in 1980. Since ’92, he’s remained in Los Angeles, where he composes film and television scores. That’s why his jazz scores seem to so familiar. Many of the pieces take on the essence of a favorite cartoon character or a lovable sitcom fall guy. From the wordless vocals and deep, bass woodwind instruments of "Whales," to the helter-skelter drama that Macchia exposes on "Rhinos" through his baritone saxophones’ character, Mo’Animals offers a superb showcase of jazz impressions suitable for framing.

Larry Nai- Signal to Noise Review July 2006

this is wonderfully conceived, beautifully executed stuff.
Mo' Animals is the third straight release from Frank Macchia that has vigorously flattened me on first hearing. A West Coast composer/arranger/instrumentalist whose CV includes Tony Bennett, Hollywood movies, and television might be initially looked at askance by us avant types, but I'll shuffle play this guy with Sun Ra, Ellington, Gil Evans, and Henry Mancini any day. Macchia's particular genius is how he has molded an apparently vast intake of influences into his own, very distinct universe. As with its predecessor, Animals, the 10 tracks on Mo' are each named for a different animal, and yes, the writing and arranging evoke said animals. But this is no cutesy anthropomorphism – this is wonderfully conceived, beautifully executed stuff. "Whales," for example, is a ghostly, multi-tracked duet for Macchia and vocalist Tracy London. Using jazz as a basis, it pulls in such reference points as Brian Wilson, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, and Nurse With Wound's Salt Marie Celeste. The insane, flute-led melody of "Hummingbirds" throws up a Macchia alto solo that's a glorious mix of free swagger and bebop rigor, while "Chickens" has marvelous, spastic pecking banjo motion by Grant Geissman. "Rhinos" shows Macchia's affinity for Frank Zappa in a wild, electric stomper with a sexy baritone sax solo from the leader, while "Pigs," with its lumbering low end scoring and contrabass clarinet, can't help evoke Anthony Braxton's writing for the nether registers. The breathtaking hues of "Bats" resonate with a striking wash of color, akin to Henry Mancini's great "Lujon," from 1961. Headphones are recommended to hear the full range of Maccia's fertile imagination, but by all means listen.


Great jazzy illustrations of a wide range of anaimals, with a funny twist - i just wish that they could have used mr Colaiuta on all tracks, instead of programed drums

George Harris- All About Jazz- January 2006

Mo’Animals is great gnus for music fans and showcases the originality of Frank
All About Jazz - Frank Macchia’s Mo’Animals
January 2006 - by George Harris

Soundtrack multi-instrumentalist Frank Macchia, on the heels (or is it hoofs) of his remarkably successful release Animals, has released a fun and stimulating encore performance. Both Animals and its follow up Mo’Animals feature compositions that characterize the animal’s size, shape or disposition. As with the previous release, Animals, there are no dogs on Mo’Animals. This recording is a veritable Noah’s ark of creativity. The band really hams it up on “Pigs,” which features Macchia’s snorting contrabass clarinet solo and a chortling bass trombone from Ken Kugler. “Monkeys” really swings, with its tribal rhythms and stampeding horn section. “Frogs” is absolutely riveting, as Macchia’s bass clarinet hops at a crisp clip. Warts and all, it’s not a bad song, even with the drum synthesizer. The rhythm section plays as a tight unit, as on the complex “Elephants.” This song, with it’s thunderous drumming, must have been a difficult tusk to master. “Chickens” clucks in at over seven minutes, giving just enough time for Grant Geissman’s banjo and Macchia’s clarinet to build up to a rousing climax. No one lays an egg on this song! “Lions” has its mane theme stated by a gorgeous, regal brass ensemble. Pianist Billy Childs roars through this piece. All in all, Mo’Animals is great gnus for music fans and showcases the originality of Frank Macchia.

Americanwired.com- Ken Micallef

music that recalls the complexity of late period Frank Zappa with the melodic al
AmericanWired.com review of "Mo' Animals"

When was the last time a west coast improv record marketed itself as the perfect compliment to visiting zoos and meeting animal lovers? Titling each tune after a particular jungle or barnyard creature, multi instrumentalist Macchia creates arrangements that mirror said critter’s personality and habitat. “Hummingbirds” darts to and fro like warring hummingbirds (ever seen these birds go at it?) dive-bombing for nectar. “Pigs” snorts and belches over a weird electronic loop before relaxing into a shuffle and a groaning contrabass clarinet endowed melody. “Bats” is appropriately spooky yet lovely, “Elephants” uses an African sounding rhythm and multi-layered trumpets for a twilight caravan feel; “Lions” recalls Blood, Sweat & Tears cruising the Serengeti. Using a band of LA session ringers (Vinnie Colauita, Billy Childs, Howard Levy), Macchia conducts this small ensemble into big band terrain. Recalling Lalo Shifirin or even early Elmer Bernstein (hello Johnny Staccato), Macchia creates music that recalls the complexity of late period Frank Zappa with the melodic allure of Pat Metheny. Sound nuts? Show me your monkey! Visit Frank’s website for free downloads so you can try before you buy, sniff, sniff -- Ken Micallef

Music Connection

A creative concept, well rendered
Music Connection Review
Top Cuts: “Hummingbirds,” “Frogs”
Summary: If the crew aboard Noah’s Ark played jazz, they might have come up with something as wacky as this avante garde collection, which features some of L.A.’s top jazz cats — led by veteran woodwind player Macchia — creating expansive, impressionistic interpretations on the whimsical “Hummingbirds,” the tribal “Monkeys,” the dark “Bats,” and even a regal “Rhinos.” It’s definitely a creative concept, well rendered.

Jack Bowers- allaboutjazz.com

Clearly off the beaten path but never less than engrossing.
All About Jazz.com review of Mo' Animals By Jack Bowers

I looked up “versatile” in Webster’s and there, believe it or not, was a picture of Frank Macchia. (No, not really, but there could have been.) On Mo’ Animals, his graphic “tribute to all creatures big and small,” Macchia plays no fewer than fourteen instruments (fifteen including synths) and handles drum programming when necessary. Oh, and he also composed and arranged the music, produced the album, and released it on his own label. For some reason known only to himself, Macchia invited a number of other musicians to take part, and they do their best to avoid stepping on his toes or raining on his parade. I suspect some overdubbing was involved, as even someone as resourceful as Macchia would have trouble playing so many instruments simultaneously (he plays half a dozen including synths on “Lions,” as many as five on some other tracks).

Whether or not one can place the various animals with the music that depicts them, it’s clear that Macchia has a solid game plan, one that is well executed by him and his stable (pardon the pun) of first-class sidemen. Some of the sounds they produce are straight from the barnyard, others from the jungles, prairies and seas that are the natural habitat of elephants, monkeys, rhinos, lions and whales. To do so, Macchia uses several instruments that aren’t often heard, especially in a jazz context, such as the B-flat contrabass clarinet (quite effective on “Pigs”), electric bass clarinet (“Frogs”), bass ocarinas, bass saxophone, and contrabass flute and clarinet.

On the ethereal “Whales,” Tracy London’s diaphanous wordless vocal is supported solely by Macchia on bass ocarinas, bass and contrabass flutes, and synths. Pianist Billy Childs, bassist Dave Carpenter and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta provide the rhythm on all selections save “Frogs” and “Whales,” with Childs featured most prominently on the supernal “Bats.” “Elephants,” Macchia writes, is his “homage to the brass voicing style created by Duke Ellington,” and in that he is squarely on target.

While Macchia’s concepts are picturesque and always interesting, the ensemble is necessarily dominant, with solos brief and subordinate for the most part. Macchia solos infrequently, although his mastery of the other instruments is indispensable. Other ad libbers include harmonica player Howard Levy (“Hummingbirds“), trombonist Bruce Fowler (“Frogs“), trumpeter Wayne Bergeron (“Elephants”) and Grant Geissman (electric guitar on “Frogs” and “Rhinos,“ banjo on “Chickens”).

Musicianship aside, Macchia’s resourcefulness and vision is what carries the day, as he gives the listener a jazz version of Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals or Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, making his point without storyline or narration. The upshot is clearly off the beaten path but never less than engrossing.