Here we have the latest release from jazz guitarist Doug MacDonald and his trio. ‘Edwin Alley’, named after a historic location in Old Town Pasadena, where the trio perform regularly on Thursday nights, is the follow-up to ‘Serenade To Highland Park’. That album had MacDonald, Flick and drummer Paul Kreibich performing standards along with a handful of the guitarist’s originals, whereas this one finds MacDonald, Flick and drummer Kendall Kay interpreting eight of MacDonald’s own compositions plus a lone standard, “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”, which closes the album.
Guitarist MacDonald has been a sideman with a long list of notables (including Buddy Rich, Ray Charles, Bill Holman, Jack Sheldon, Gabe Baltazar, Lorez Alexandria, Bob Cooper, and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra), but as a leader he has really made his mark from unaccompanied solos to combos of all shapes and sizes through to big bands, releasing more than two dozen albums to date. But it is when he is in the trio setting that he feels most at home, especially when it is with a rhythm section that he works with so closely as Flick and Kay know exactly what is required of them, supporting Doug in his melodies, stepping forward when the time is right but then going into the background when it is Doug’s time to shine. Given they gig on at least a weekly basis it is probably no surprise that the 9 tunes were recorded in just one day last November, as they are so tight there is no need for additional rehearsing or overdubs as they just set up, plugged in and played.
While I can appreciate this album, I must confess that it is just too laid back and vanilla for me personally, as I prefer my jazz to have more improvisation and bite, but for those who want their music to be relaxing and something to drift along to then this is a really nice outing indeed. Doug’s guitar playing is beautifully fluid, and the rhythm section keep the ambience nicely, and I can see why they have such a longstanding gig. For those who enjoy mellow jazz which is not frightening at all.