New CD

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Posted by Larry McDonough on December 30, 2000 at 18:33:55:

Hello to my Alesis friends. I have learned a lot from the Alesis email list and bulletin boards. I am writing to let you know about my new solo piano jazz CD, which I recorded on the QS8. Attached is a press release, reviews, and articles. Let
me know what you think. Thanks.

Larry McDonough
1693 Minnehaha Avenue West
St. Paul, MN 55104-1152
651-646-1909 Work 612-827-3774 Fax: 612-827-7890 (Home and UOM) (Work) (website) (credit card sales) (video for Wednesday, October 4, 2000 and Thursday, February 3, 2000)

Small Steps, Solo Piano Jazz by Larry McDonough

St. Paul jazz pianist Larry McDonough released his new CD of solo piano jazz, titled Small Steps, on the Marx Music label, in 2000. The original CD release party filled Dakota at Bandana Square in St. Paul, Minnesota with up to an hour wait to get in. A second party, family show and jazz education session in February at filled Dakota with adults and children. Also appearing was BOZO allegro, a 9-piece jazz-fusion little-big band in which he plays keyboards. He also teamed with folk mandolinist Chris Silver to perform "Fazz Is No Jolk: a Fusion of Folk and Jazz," and with various duet partners to perform "Off Beat: Jazz Classics in New Meters."

In Small Steps, McDonough performs unique arrangements of jazz classics (Miles Davis' "All Blues", Chick Corea's "Crystal Silence," and "Nature Boy", first performed by Nat King Cole and later George Benson), pop classics ("Linus and Lucy", Eric Clapton's "Layla", and The Beatles' "Good Day Sunshine"), as well as original pieces "Small Steps" and "Coreatown." Critics have compared McDonough to Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Ian Underwood, Patricia Barber, and Claude Debussy.

McDonough also has toured performing "Off Beat: Jazz Classics in New Meters," in which McDonough has taken jazz classics and put them into different time signatures, changing the rythmn and feel of the tunes. Pieces originally in 4/4 time are now done in 5/4 time, which is the rythmn of "Mission Impossible" and "Take 5", including "Four" (now titled "Five-Four"), "Take the A Train" (now called "Take the 5-A Train"), and "Days of Wine and Roses" (now named "Five Days of Wine and Roses"). Other arrangements include "Take 5" in 7/4 (now called "Take 7"), "My Favorite Things" in 5/4, "Have You Met Miss. Jones" and "If I Only Had a Brain" in 3/4, and "The Star Spangled Banner" as a 4/4 jazz ballad (based on a Jeanne Arland Peterson arrangement). McDonough performed some of the arrangements in a duo with Phil Holm on trumpet NewsNight Minnesota on Twin Cities Public Television. Video is available at for Wednesday, October 4, 2000 (20 minutes and 12 seconds into the show). Video also is available from McDonough's earlier solo performance for Thursday, February 3, 2000 (21 minutes and 17 seconds into the show).

McDonough continues his CD release tour to clubs, coffeehouses and house parties in the Twin Cities and throughout Minnesota, performing solo, and in duos (paired with guitar, mandolin, steel drums, vibes, trumpet, trombone, sax, or violin) and larger groups.

Small Steps has been on the play list for

1. Jazz88 KBEM-FM 88.5 Minneapolis,
2. Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) 91.1,
3. WTIP-FM, Grand Marais North Shore Public Radio,
4. Temple University Public Radio, Philadelphia, PA,
5. KQAL, Winona State University, Winona, MN,
6. KASU-FM Arkansas State University Public Radio,
7. KMSU Mankato State University Radio, and
8. on the Café Jazz station.

McDonough has appeared on:

1. NewsNight Minnesota on KTCA/KTCI Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) Channels 2 and 17;
2. Jazz Image with Leigh Kamman on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) 91.1;
3. Word of Mouth with Chris Roberts on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) 91.1;
4. Minnesota Connection with Connie Evingson on Jazz88FM KBEM-FM 88.5;
5. String Theory with Kevin Barnes on Jazz88FM KBEM-FM 88.5;
6. Recollections with Larry Wolf on Jazz88FM KBEM-FM 88.5;
7. The Patty Peterson Show on WCCO-AM 8.30; and
8. Mike Raymond's Jazz Show on WTIP-FM, Grand Marais North Shore Public Radio.

He has performed live on television and radio

1. playing solo piano, on NewsNight Minnesota on KTCA/KTCI Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) Channels 2 and 17;
2. with Phil Holm, also on NewsNight Minnesota on KTCA/KTCI Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) Channels 2 and 17;
3. with "The String Theory Quartet", with Diane Jarvi, vocals and guitar, Brian Barnes, vocals and guitar, and Kevin Barnes on resophonic guitar, a live broadcast on "String Theory" on Jazz88 KBEM 88.5 FM; and
4. with BOZO allegro on Cooking at the Dakota on Jazz88FM KBEM-FM 88.5.

His music has been covered by newspapers such as the Minneapolis StarTribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Pulse Of The Twin Cities, Siren, Winona Daily News, Duluth News Tribune, and Mankato Free Press. You can hear sound clips from the CD at and see video of the appearances on NewsNight Minnesota at for Thursday, February 3, 2000 (performing solo, 21 minutes and 17 seconds into the show) and Wednesday, October 4, 2000 (performing in a duo with Phil Holm on trumpet, 20 minutes and 12 seconds into the show).

CDs are available

1. in Minnesota at The Electric Fetus in Minneapolis and Duluth, Cheapo/Applause in Uptown Minneapolis, Oarfolkjokepus in Minneapolis, Eclipse in St. Paul, Down in the Valley at all locations, Groth Music in Bloomington, Evans Music in White Bear Lake, and Face the Music in Winona;
2. in Washington DC at Zuki Moon;
3. over the internet at (local website with sound clips), (sound clips and credit card sales), (credit card sales), and (web radio); and
4. by contacting:
Larry McDonough
1693 Minnehaha Avenue West
St. Paul, MN 55104-1152
651-646-1909, Work 612-827-3774, Fax: 612-827-7890 (Home and University of Minnesota) (Work)
$15.00 (+ $2.00 if mailed).


McDonough has been performing in the area for 25 years. He received his degree in music education from the University of Minnesota in 1978, performing on piano and trumpet, and in school ensembles with Clark Terry and Thad Jones, and for President Nixon and the President of Mexico.

He played extensively in the Twin Cities in the 1970's and early 1980's, performing solo and in his own duos and trios, and with such groups and performers as the Wolverines; vocalists Patty Peterson, Shirley Witherspoon, Connie Olson, and Vicki Mountain; bassists Tom Lewis, Billy Peterson, Paul Peterson, and Chuck Adams; guitarist Mike Elliott; drummer Phil Hey; as well as cover bands Jules and the Mystics. He regularly performed at the old Night Train club in the Como Avenue warehouse area, and at the Jax Restaurant. He also taught, and composed and arranged for high school band.

McDonough moved away in the earlier 1980's, and after returning a few years later, he performed primarily at private functions, including a performance for First Lady Hillary Clinton. He began playing publicly again in the last few years, performing solo and in his own duos and trios, and with BOZO allegro, which recorded the 1998 CD, The Revolver Suite, a reworking of each of the songs from the Beatles' album Revolver in different African-American styles, also on the Marx Music label. McDonough also will appear on BOZO allegro's upcoming CD, Relentlessly Cheerful. He recently appeared with legendary jazz-funk trombonist and national recording artist Fred Wesley.

Notes on Small Steps

On Small Steps, jazz pianist Larry McDonough presents unique arrangements of jazz classics (All Blues, Crystal Silence, Nature Boy), pop classics (Layla, Linus and Lucy, Good Day Sunshine), and originals songs by producer Mark Browning Milner (Coreatown) and McDonough (Small Steps). McDonough said that he had several goals for the CD. First, he wanted to record live in the studio, without any editing, dubbing or re-recording.

Second, he wanted to display his unique style of playing solos in the bass section of the keyboard. He incorporates left- and right-handed bass solos in addition to treble solos, in each piece. McDonough says that "This frees me to construct separate and distinct solos within the same song, sometimes in sequence, sometimes trading solos back and forth between bass and treble, as in ‘All Blues' and ‘Small Steps'."

Third, McDonough dramatically changed the melodies and harmonies on many of the songs, basing harmonies on modal harmonies built on 4ths, which were popular in the 60s and 70s, rather than traditional jazz changes. In "Linus and Lucy", "Layla", and "Good Day Sunshine", this has led to harmonizations far from the original composers' intentions. Producer Milner describes this as "bebop-cum-impressionistic style, sort of Bill Evans meets Debussy."

Finally, McDonough quotes extensively from other composers in his solos, but often places them against harmonies quite different from the originals. This can most clearly be heard in the "Coreatown" solos, where several Chick Corea melodies appear, as well as on "Linus and Lucy" (television themes), "Layla" (George Harrison and Stevie Wonder songs), and "Small Steps" (melodies from Corea, Herbie Hancock and others). The other quotes reflect his work in BOZO allegro. McDonough decided to quote Beatles' melodies within the solos on each of the pieces. He placed a list of Beatles' tunes in front of him while recording and quoted when he felt the urge. Some are obvious, others are buried in bass solos or placed against unusual harmonies or rhythms.

McDonough's original piece, "Small Steps", was written as a response to Coltrane's "Giant Steps", based on unison and minor second progressions in the melody and harmonies. The solo section includes changes through all 12 keys, moving upward and downward chromatically, bass and treble solos, and a trading section between bass and treble.

The CD also includes the cover art work of Michael Diehl and photography of Ed Freeman. They used imaginative shots of a toy piano and a grand piano to create illusions about which is the real piano. They also used a line drawing of McDonough by Bob Brown, rather than a photo, but include a photo of McDonough performing as a child.

Reviews for Larry McDonough and Small Steps, His CD of Solo Piano Jazz

Chris Casey, Duluth News Tribune: "Small Steps has been played in the Twin Cities on KBEM-FM 88.5 and KNOW-FM 91.1 as well as on jazz stations around the country. The album displays McDonough's unique style of playing solos in the bass section of the keyboard. He incorporates left- and right-handed bass solos, in addition to treble solos, in each piece. He also mixes in pop standards, with dramatically changed melodies, such as Eric Clapton's ‘Layla' and the Beatles' ‘Good Day Sunshine.'"

Pulse Of The Twin Cities: "Enjoy a leisurely Sunday brunch with some great jazz music by Take 3, featuring Larry McDonough on piano, Bill Bergmann on guitar, and Jeff King on sax. The trio will be performing McDonough's Off Beat: Jazz Classics in New Meters - arrangements of classics into different time signatures, as well as selections from McDonough's CD, Small Steps."

Ian Webb, Blues on Stage, "St. Paul jazz pianist Larry McDonough has released a fascinating solo CD, ‘Small Steps' is an album of unique music - three unique jazz arrangements, three unique arrangements of pop classics and two original pieces.

Each track was recorded in a single take in the studio, and together they form a fascinating whole. Larry's way of playing gives the music much depth, he seemingly plays ‘solos' with either hand over a full range from bass to treble, with sections where both hands play, together, or opposed and sometimes as if in conversation.

This is a very modern jazz form, with the structural development of many themes giving the feeling of improvisation, while maintaining the player's desired focus. Though six of these tracks are covers of things you may know, don't expect them to sound anything like the originals.

The first track is a Chick Corea cover, ‘Crystal Silence', it opens full of rich complex rhythms only giving way to a sparse theme which conjures up images of massive empty spaces interspersed with strange objects. An excellent arrangement of ‘Linus and Lucy' is followed by the first wholly original track, ‘Small Steps'. Written by Larry McDonough in response to Coltrane's ‘Giant Steps', it is a fascinating piece full of surprising changes of pattern where each new facet of the music seems like another turn of a kaleidoscope, a related but very different pattern to the last.

‘Coreatown' an original composed by Mark Browning Milner is another strong piece, full of power and finesse, giving odd glimpses of familiar Chick Corea themes. The next track, a cover of Eric Clapton's ‘Layla' has never sounded so different, the strong melodies can still be found, but only as part of a verdant tapestry of cross-themes and left and right hand competition.

The final track is ‘All Blues', taken from the Miles Davis classic album ‘Kind Of Blue'. It is almost certain that Miles could never have envisaged his classic track arranged in this way. It captures the essence of the original in terms of melody and mood, before disappearing off to explore diverse sub-plots, developing tempo, melody and harmony, before returning to the general mood of Miles' music.

This is an excellent album of very modern, near avante garde jazz, it is music to listen to, it really repays repeated playing. The album is at times thoughtful, introspective and thought provoking, as well as stimulating and above all very very good."

T. Alexander, Pulse Of The Twin Cities: "McDonough has style. Small Steps is all piano solos in which he interprets the likes of Chick Corea, Eric Clapton, The Beatles, and Miles Davis. McDonough may be covering these greats, but he has a flair that is all his own. He also exhibits echoes of McCoy Tyner ala My Favorite Things when Tyner was working with John Coltrane. Other times he has flashes of Ian Underwood when he was playing with Frank Zappa in the late '60's. On ‘Layla', the Clapton chestnut, McDonough dismantles the tune and gently sets the chunks spinning like plates on a stick. It is obviously that familiar tune, but it has golden glass threads of flats and sharps, minor sevenths all around it. Along with this set is a tune from Kind Of Blue called ‘All Blues'. On that album Davis rehearsed his quintet using some complicated numbers with tricky turnarounds only to scrap them for sparse, simple sketches to challenge his players to improvise on the day they were to record. McDonough achieves the feel that Bill Evans, Davis's piano player at the time, had set down. McDonough is a very strong player.

Completely on the other side of McDonough's abstract flights is Chris Silver's Over Time. This offering is almost a complete polar opposite of Small Steps. Where McDonough plays solo, Silver is joined by thirteen other players. Where McDonough is spacy and loose, Silver's record is a well-ordered bluegrass jamboree. Now bluegrass has a lot in common with jazz. Both of these style players must be precise and loose simultaneously. They both have a history and both are American. Silver's got the goods. He has a strong voice and the fifteen tunes on this records reflect his love for the form. Some of the recordings go back ten years, but that's all right ‘cause this record is timeless.

So, why the jazz guy and the bluegrass guy in the same review? Glad you asked! These guys have it in their heads to meld these forms together. They are taunting this amalgam as "fazz" (the alternative being "jolk," right? That won't fly). The idea of jazz and bluegrass is not that odd, really. Ask a Dead Fan. However, judging by the level of craftsmanship on each of their respective albums, it should prove to be a very interesting show."

Tom Surowicz, Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Since this CD starts out with Chick Corea's ‘Crystal Silence,' listeners might expect a long set of ethereal, ruminative solo piano. But when McDonough, keyboardist for Bozo Allegro, attacks the keys midway into the tune, it becomes clear that serenity is just one of his goals here. The album is a fertile exercise in overhauling, retooling and refashioning familiar themes. Vince Guaraldi's ‘Linus and Lucy' becomes moody and meandering. John Coltrane's ‘Giant Steps' inspires McDonough's freewheeling and soulful title track. McDonough's ... darn good at thinking on his feet. On Eric Clapton's ‘Layla,' he slyly quotes songs by George Harrison, whose then-wife Patti was Clapton's inspiration for the song. It's the oddest, and best, version since John Fahey and Terry Robb tackled the epic on two acoustic guitars in 1984."

Patty Peterson, The Goodnight Club, WCCO-AM 8.30 Radio, Minneapolis: "Great music. Cool arrangement [of Linus and Lucy]. An incredible pianist. [Small Steps is] really beautiful."

Kevin Barnes, String Theory, Jazz88 KBEM 88.5 Radio, Minneapolis: "A beautiful version of Linus and Lucy. Wonderful piano work. A great, great version [of Good Day Sunshine]. Very interesting, creative ideas, loved it." "Bill Evans meets Debussy. Unique improvisation-based treatments of classic jazz tunes, pop songs, and originals. Solo pianist Larry McDonough takes classic songs from the jazz and pop schools, as well as interesting originals, and puts them through his own unique focus. You will recognize these tunes, but they won't sound anything like you remember them. In addition, Larry is the only pianist we know who takes bass solos on piano, often trading choruses back and forth between his right and left hands."

Connie Evingson, Minnesota Connection, Jazz88 KBEM 88.5 Radio, Minneapolis: "It is interesting because this is a real listening record. It certainly works for background, but it is the kind of record that you get more out of if you really listen. It's wonderful."

Mike Raymond, WTIP-FM, Grand Marais North Shore Public Radio: "I have been listening to it a lot ... and every time I listen I find more things that are interesting intriguing little treats and tidbits in there, especially [McDonough's] quotes, [his] use of other tunes or samples of Beatles' tunes ... and TV theme songs and things in there I find quite fun." "Larry McDonough is a solo pianist who puts jazz standards, pop classics, and quirky originals through his Bill-Evans-meets-Debussy-filter."

Mark Browning Milner, Recollections, Jazz88 KBEM 88.5 Radio, Minneapolis: "A fabulous keyboardist ... [with] all of this skill and ... finesse as a soloist, it is just an amazing thing. [His] approach is really quite unique. I've never heard anybody who ... takes tunes and turns them upside down. He is not an easy player. He uses a lot of thorny harmonies and really outside kind of stuff, but the general mood is late night, glass of wine, sit and think. I think introspective is a good word for it"

Leigh Kamman, The Jazz Image, Minnesota Public Radio 91.1, St. Paul: "From a collection called Small Steps, [Larry McDonough] has created a lot of music. [On Linus and Lucy,] certainly what [he] designed ... is almost another composition in a way. ... The artistry of Larry McDonough [includes] a lovely interpretation of Good Day Sunshine. What a thrill to catch up with [him] and his art. It certainly is just a bright excursion to sit in and listen to [his] performances. Wonderful, Herbie Hancock-Bill Evan-ish .... "

Ken Stone, NewsNight Minnesota, KTCA/KTCI Public Television Chs. 2 & 17, St. Paul: "Alright, here's the question. Does being an attorney for Legal Aid and an accomplished jazz musician make you a Renaissance man? Well, I think it does. Larry McDonough certainly would qualify in my book."

Jim Walsh, "Umbrella That Is Jazz Is in for Some Stormy Weather," St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Minnesota jazz veteran McDonough is the keyboardist for Bozo Allegro, the Twin Cities-based, nine-piece, rock-jazz-blues big band... [H]is warm and cozy new CD, Small Steps, ... features reworkings of such jazz standards as All Blues, Crystal Silence and Nature Boy, as well as Eric Clapton's Layla and a nimble, slowed-down take on Vince Guaraldi's Linus and Lucy from A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Tom Surowicz, "Jazz spotlight: Beat Happening," Minneapolis Star Tribune: "RECOMMENDED: A thoughtful, provocative pianist who, ... like [Patricia] Barber -- turns familiar tunes inside out. Larry McDonough [plays] Chick Corea, Vince Guaraldi, Eric Clapton and Miles Davis pieces [on] his intriguing solo disc Small Steps."

Pulse of the Twin Cities: "A hot ticket."

Larry Wolf, Recollections, KBEM 88.5 Radio, Minneapolis: "Very intriguing. I like his musical jokes. He will throw in a theme from a song that has absolutely nothing to do with the song. An introspective CD. [Sometimes] when you listen to solo piano it puts you a sleep. This CD [requires] more thinking. You have to pay attention. ... Interesting selections of covers. Layla is very nice. It is not an obvious cover song. Good Day Sunshine: Very nice. I liked it."

Mark Browning Milner, Producer, Marx Music, "This is one cool album .... What impresses me so much about [Larry McDonough's] approach is how he takes a tune and puts it through the filter of his musicality and ends up with something quite different. ... I call it ‘bebop-cum-impressionism, sort of Bill Evans meets Debussy', and that pretty much says it. Being an arranger, I'm much more interested in cool things being done to tunes rather than improvisational chops per se, and Larry's arrangements delight me no end. ‘Linus And Lucy', ‘Layla', and ‘All Blues' are recognizable (well, you might have to work a little bit on ‘Layla'...) but unlike any other versions you've ever heard, with odd twists and cool turns. And ‘Good Day Sunshine'! Larry took my arrangement from [the 1998 BOZO allegro CD] The REVOLVER Suite, which was already slightly out there, and fractured it further...very cool, very weird, very hip. As an improviser, Larry shines on, and if anybody has ever heard of another pianist who takes bass solos, please let me know about it."

Articles about Larry McDonough and Small Steps, His CD of Solo Piano Jazz

Doug Grow, "Legal Aid Lawyer Moonlights with His Own CD," Minneapolis Star Tribune:

"Pressure? Pressure, Lawrence McDonough said, is standing before the Minnesota Supreme Court, arguing that a woman shouldn't lose her home because of the mistakes of her son.

Compared to that case, which he (and the woman) lost, McDonough's performance at the Dakota Bar & Grill at St. Paul's Bandana Square on Saturday night should be anxiety-free.

‘I play gigs so much that I don't think I'll be nervous,' McDonough said. ‘Well, maybe a little.'

On Saturday night, McDonough, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis by day and a pianist by night, will release his first CD, ‘Small Steps.' This isn't the sort of entertainment event that's going to put the Twin Cities at the center of the U.S. jazz scene. McDonough figures that if, over the next few months, he can sell 250 CDs, he and his friend Mark Browning Milner, who produced the CD on the Mark Music label, should recover most of their investment.

‘I think I've got enough friends and relatives to do that,' McDonough said.

But this little event is a reminder that in a celebrity-conscious society, we often look past the extraordinary characters around us.

McDonough, 44, fits in that extraordinary category. On all but the most foul days, he commutes by bicycle from his St. Paul home to his Legal Aid office in north Minneapolis (‘When you're on a bike, you can think more than you do when you're in a car,' he said.) He's an active father, whose crowning achievement a year ago was to arrange and direct a piece for the band at St. Paul's Webster Magnet Elementary School. And he carries two business cards: Legal Aid lawyer and musician available for clubs, weddings or parties (jazz, classical, rock).

Once upon a time, McDonough, like every kid with a musical instrument, was going to be a star. He started playing piano in fourth grade, by junior high he was playing in garage bands and by the time he was a student at Bloomington Lincoln High School, he was picking up club gigs as a pianist.

He pushed on with his music dreams at the University of Minnesota. After getting a degree in music education, he worked as a part-time band instructor at his old high school and at Minneapolis Edison High School, and he played with as many as six bands. He was playing everything from the jazz he loved to pop to polka. He could make a living with his music, but . . .

‘Music seemed isolated from everything else that was going on in the world,' he said.

And so, in 1980, he left the isolation and enrolled at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. He thought he'd end up as an environmental lawyer, but in 1983 he worked as a Legal Aid clerk in Minneapolis and he was hooked.

His office is proof that Legal Aid money isn't squandered on luxury. Furniture is cheap. Desks are stacked high with files. Typically, the cases involve unglamorous disputes between tenants and landlords. The waiting rooms usually are filled with people who look hopeless. For the lawyers, pay is low and pensions don't exist.

But McDonough remains excited about the cases, the clients, the principles of access to legal services that Legal Aid represents. He's the first to acknowledge that the 1960s-style words he uses to describe his work sound ‘cheesy' in 2000.

‘The caseload is huge and the hardest thing you have to do is say 'no' to people,' he said. ‘But for me, the romance is still here. My attitude hasn't changed from the first day I started.'

He has become recognized in the legal profession for his work -- but it's not exactly a wide-ranging reputation.

For example, Lowell Pickett, owner of the Dakota – where McDonough and Bozo Allegro, a jazz, rock and blues band he plays with, will be performing -- was startled when he learned McDonough is an attorney, to say nothing of a Legal Aid attorney with a reputation for good work.

‘Attorney?' Pickett said. ‘I know him as a good pianist. He's not out there with some of the other pianists in town, but now I know why.'

McDonough is slightly embarrassed about releasing a CD. ‘It's humbling to think that it's me as opposed to somebody else,' he said. ‘There are a lot of piano players better than me.'

Last fall, his intention was to have Browning Milner help him with a short demonstration tape, which he wanted to send to a woman who was interested in hiring him to play for a wedding. Browning Milner did the tape, liked what he heard and urged McDonough to do a solo CD. McDonough decided to take the leap, which for one night has put him center stage at the Dakota."

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