St. Paul jazz pianist, singer, arranger, and bandleader Larry McDonough was a regular on the Twin Cities jazz scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He then cut back on public performances to raise three young daughters. McDonough reentered the jazz scene in the late 1990s, first with the jazz fusion group Bozo Allegro, and then on his own with his critically acclaimed solo piano CD, "Small Steps."
His new solo piano and voice CD, "Tuscarora: Short Stories for Jazz Piano," is dedicated to the memory of Paul and Sheila Wellstone, Marcia Wellstone Markuson, Mary McEvoy, Tom Lapic, and William McLaughlin, it benefits Wellstone Action, a tax-exempt organization formed to carry on their work. It includes original music, as well as arrangements of jazz, popular, religious, and historical music in different times signatures and harmonies, such as "Amazing Grace" and "My Favorite Things" in 5/4, and "We Shall Overcome" (with vocals) and "Star Spangled Banner" as jazz ballads.
In addition to his solo performances, he also appears with his group, "Off Beat", which performs jazz in odd meters. Selections include "My Favorite Things" following the Coltrane version but in 5/4 time, Dame la Mano" (aka "Red River Valley"), "Nature Boy" and "Cantaloupe Island" in 7/4 time, A Rose for Two", an original written along with kids with disabilities in a Bill Evan's style, and God Bless America", "Take the A Train" and "Aja" in 5/4 time.
Reviewers have compared him to Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Ian Underwood, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, John Fahey, Herbie Hancock, Patricia Barber, and Claude Debussy.
McDonough also composes and arranges music for school music programs, ranging from chamber groups to concert bands and jazz ensembles, focusing on exposing young musicians to jazz harmonies and rhythms, and uncommon time signatures.
"Larry McDonough is an original much in the tradition of Dave Brubeck, and McDonough's piano stylings are intimate and innovative. There is a touch of humor blended within the time signatures that adds to the charm and intricate playing McDonough shares with the audience." LEE PROSSER, JAZZ REVIEW.
"Thoughtful, introspective and thought provoking, as well as stimulating and above all very very good." IAN WEBB, ENGLAND, BLUES ON STAGE, and BLUES NEWS.
"Echoes of McCoy Tyner .... [On] 'All Blues' ... McDonough achieves the feel [of] Bill Evans.... McDonough is a very strong player." T. ALEXANDER, PULSE OF THE TWIN CITIES.
"RECOMMENDED: A thoughtful, provocative pianist.... It's the oddest, and best, version [of Eric Clapton's 'Layla]' since John Fahey and Terry Robb tackled the epic on two acoustic guitars in 1984." TOM SUROWICZ, MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE.
"[McDonough's} warm and cozy new CD, Small Steps, [includes] ... a nimble, slowed-down take on Vince Guaraldi's Linus and Lucy from A Charlie Brown Christmas." JIM WALSH, ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS.
"Wonderful, Herbie Hancock-Bill Evan-ish." LEIGH KAMMAN, THE JAZZ IMAGE, MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO.
"Bill Evans meets Debussy.... 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." WWW.CDBABY.COM.
"[I]t is the kind of record that you get more out of if you really listen. It's wonderful." CONNIE EVINGSON, MINNESOTA CONNECTION, KBEM 88.5 RADIO, MPLS.
"Think piano music is boring? Then you haven't heard Larry McDonough's rendition of 'Layla,' or 'Linus and Lucy' from the Charlie Brown Christmas special." CHRISTINA EBERHARD, WINONA DAILY NEWS.