Doug MacDonald with Benedetto LaVenezia photo by S. House, 2020
Freelance Guitarist, Arranger and Composer Doug MacDonald has recorded over 20 CDs performing as the primary artist and over 50 CDs joining multi-talented artists. MacDonald’s musicianship evokes thoughts of such artists as Chet Baker and Sinatra, to name a few, who performed and excelled in a particular style their entire careers while keeping it fresh for their audiences time after time.
Doug was kind enough to do an interview via emails… when I mentioned I’d like to do an interview he thought I meant via zoom! I told him I’ve never done Zoom (really!) and I’d have to redecorate my office!
Cindy Benedetto: You recently purchased a Neptune Blue LaVenezia. That makes a trio of Benedettos you now have! (Third Times the Charm!) Can you compare your 16-B to the La Venezia? And to your original Bravo?
Doug MacDonald:The new La Venezia guitar is a real treasure! It is such a pleasure to play the carved top and the floating pickup makes a clear acoustic sound that is unparalleled! I still love the Red Pearl 16-Bmodel I got last August as well as my original sunburst Bravo. Each one has its own personality! I appreciate all three!
DM: The radio show is on Monday’s 2-4 PST. I believe strongly in educating the listeners by sharing stories about some of the jazz artists I’ve played and recorded with. Also the song repertoire is very important to mainstream jazz. I play a cross section of jazz from big bands to small bands, vocalists to saxophone players guitarists to piano trios. Mostly mainstream jazz and great songs. Swinging with a groove!!!!
CB: How did your radio show come about? Bob says you have a great radio voice, by the way.
DM: Thanks for the compliment on the voice! The radio show came about when Alan Shultz contacted me about two years ago and and asked if I would do a weekly show. Alan was the one that had the jazz station in Carmel that Clint Eastwood always referred to!
CB: By the way, we listened to your show last night… loved it! Enjoyed the great music selection and especially your commentary. Bob bookmarked it to listen to regularly!
Click below to listen to a clip from Doug’s radio show which you can hear all over the world!
CB: What jazz guitarists do or did you admire the most? Influenced by any?
DM: I loved all the great players and really listened to all of them particularly Johnny Smith, Wes Montgomery, Herb Ellis, Grant Green, Joe Pass, etc. Years later I studied composition and arranging…that was a big expansion and influence.
CB: What is your favorite jazz standard?
DM: Tune wise it is hard to say,Probably, all the great tunes…Autumn in New York, All the things you are, If I should lose you, It’s a blue world, etc. I also like the more obscure standards. Currently, I do a lot of writing for big band so I’m always coming up with originals. Currently, I do a lot of writing for big band so I’m always coming up with originals.
Bob Benedetto: Your big band involvement is very interesting! In addition to playing with small groups, I used to play with two big bands up until 1-2 years ago but had to quit because of back problems and tinnitus. Found it very interesting and learned a lot about playing rhythm guitar with a big band. I miss it! What I noticed on the big band charts is that in most cases arrangers used big complex chords. So, I learned to substitute with simple two or three note chords, ala Bucky Pizzarelli and Freddie Green. That made the bass player and piano player happy!
DM: Yes, that is correct. Rhythm guitar would be with no amp playing on the lower strings. Not many extensions! Writing for big band is a real treat; always a lot to learn using many different techniques in voicing the different sections.
CB: Who is your favorite composer?
Toluca Lake Jazz recording with Doug MacDonald on Neptune Blue La Venezia and bassist Harvey Newmark. Photos: S. House, 2020
DM: Composers I would say Jerome Kern, Duke Ellington, Harry Warren, George Gershwin…All the great ones !
CB: I see you use a Henriksen amp. Tell us why you like it (we love Peter!)
DM: The Henriksen amp is so great for travel and all of the gigs! I also like the Quilter.
CB: Did you start out playing standards?
DM: I actually played blues music first then graduated (in my opinion) into jazz. My thought was that it was a natural progression from one to the other.
CB: Did you play another instrument before guitar?
DM: I started on trombone in the school band around the same time as guitar, about 13 years old. The band and orchestra taught me to breathe and phrase. Also, sitting in the middle I could hear the inner parts and developed a desire to learn composition/arranging. I wouldn’t pursue this fully until much later in life. I feel this is paramount to a thorough knowledge of music!
CB: What was your first guitar?
DM: I think my first guitar was some sort of solid body and soon after a Harmony hollow body. I’ve had several Gibsons and much later a few Buscarinos but I’m very happy with my three Benedetto models!
CB: What are some examples of the obscure standards that you like?
DM: Some examples of tunes that are not played as often are: Idaho, Don’t you know I care, With The Wind And The Rain In Her Hair, It’s a blue world, On the Alamo, Isn’t it a pity, Theme from Picnic, If I should lose you, Too late now, Bubbles in the wine.
CB: With all the challenges and woes in the life of a performing musicians, and now with Covid, it’s nice to know that you are so busy. You are obviously very optimistic and well-organized. Do you have any special projects planned for the future?
DM: Great question! I have two CDS coming out: One with bassist Harvey Newmark (Toluca Lake Jazz) and the other is from a live concert last year on Hawaii public radio with a quartet! Next year if we are released from Covid, I would like record a big band CD since I’ve been writing 17 piece band charts during this pandemic. Either online or if possible in person I would like to give more concerts and play better venues throughout the world. I believe that we have to go to our audience in order to raise our profile.
CB: I noticed on your Instagram posts that you use the hashtag #groovejazz. What are your thoughts on that term?
DM: For groove I think it’s mainly a blues and swing feel combination, also with the jazz! “In the pocket” is another term meaning it is something that you can move to stressing rhythmic nuances. A stylistic thing! Big bands do that a lot, also the Hammond organ groups have that concept.
CB: How did the Coachella Valley Trio come about and when?
DM: That trio started on Wednesday nights in Cathedral City at place called AJ’s. We are supposed to return as soon as some Covid restrictions are lifted. I had played with these guys before (Larry Holloway (b) and Tim Pleasant (d)) but it became a group about four years ago.
CB: After listening to your radio show and your mentioning Palm Desert and Coachella Valley, I assume you like the vibe living there? Does the weather and terrain inspire any of your music?
DM: I go back and forth between North Hollywood and Palm Springs. Each place is inspirational. The desert is a very magic environment. The mountains and the palm trees make it a very special place to create compositions.
CB: Thank you so much, Doug! Continued success!
DM: I hope to meet you two in person sometime soon. It’s been such a pleasure interacting with both of you!