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Guitarist Doug MacDonald’s resumé includes stints with Ray Charles, Ray Brown, Buddy Rich and more. Along with bassist Mike Flick and drummer Paul Kreibich, he indulges a traditionalist bent on Serenade to Highland Park. Consisting mostly of standards, plus a couple of originals, the record sways and swings old school, paying tribute to influential pickers like Jim Hall and Joe Pass as much as to the Los Angeles area after which it’s named. MacDonald is a master of using chords to carry the melody – he’s hardly adverse to single note lines, especially during solos, but he creates enough movement with his chordal work that the fleet-fingered moves usually become accents rather than prime movers. Check out the way MacDonald carries the tunes in “Days of Wine and Roses,” “You Stepped Out of a Dream” or “Brazil” – his direct attention to the way the song goes makes the tracks catchy and accessible even to non-jazz fans. The rhythm section acts as more than just support, often acting as full-on partners – Flick in particular delivers some impressive solos. Jazz is a genre in which anything goes, and parameters can be stretched wide, but sometimes it’s nice to have a shot of the straightahead stuff, and on that MacDonald delivers.
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