|Museum's Concert Year Ends on a Jazzy High Note|
|Bach With A Twist|
|National Composer's Guild Competition|
|John was a multiple winner in this years
NATIONAL COMPOSER'S GUILD COMPETITION,
winning three categories and taking third place in a fourth category.
He took first place in the arranger's category with his orchestral arrangement of
"I Left My Heart In San Francisco", in the solo piano category with his "Fourth Piano Sonata", and in the children's music category. He took third place in the jazz category with his piece "Shape-Shifter 6, from the album "Patterns, Circles and Shapes".
Shorter and Hancock should be pleased with this new CD dedicated to
them. The John Mackay Trio's openness to new interpretations —
as opposed to literal reconstruction of famous charts — yields
performances that consistently rise above the level of mere tribute.
If any recording symbolizes the creative spirit of the San Francisco
Bay Area music scene, this is it.
The unexpected rhythmic variations on Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, Cantaloupe Island, Black Nile, and other themes set this group apart from the competition. Footprints Fantasy is a multi-leveled, tour-de-force solo performance by the leader, complete with percussive clusters. And Mackay's poly-modal piece, Her Way, reveals an accomplished composer deserving much wider recognition.
James D. Armstrong, Jr.
All Music Guide website,
May 16, 2001
AMG Rating *****
heart and Often Grin] where the pianist [John Mackay]
shows a penchant for vigorous swinging. He also has a way of slotting
in unusual chord combinations, keeping everyone on their toes. Bye
Bye Blackbird is the vehicle for group fun and games as
they give this oft-played standard a new, bright musical paint job.
Another standard, You
and the Night and the Music, is the tool for Mackay's
improvisational wizardry. No matter the tempo . . . Mackay establishes
himself as an excellent pianist. . . . In the meantime, it's recommended
that this album be added to the buy list.
love is the recessed theme of Mackay's piano trio recording on Peaced
Heart and Often Grin. The music, whether familiar fare
or original compositions, has a tender heart and is played with sensitivity
and affection. Mackay prefers to use a less than percussive touch
on the keys, which adds delicacy to the songs as he and his two trios
promote peace in the world through music. He accentuates the upper
end of the keyboard, which helps to further rid the music of melancholic
traits. As an improviser, Mackay is highly original and energetic.
He spins webs of spontaneous lines around the tune base, eschewing
darkness for the brighter view of the world. On Psychotic
Dance Moves, however, Mackay changes gears slightly by
adding synthesized sounds into the regular routine. The diversion
is short-lived, and he returns quickly to improvised piano turf.
The two separate bass/drum combinations yield noticeable differences in the music. Zerlin on either acoustical or electric bass and Distel on drums follow the formula established by Mackay by playing with sensitivity behind him. They provide the color and shading that gives the music its defined character. When Krebs and Aragon replace them on five of the ten selections, the rhythm has a bouncy, buoyant sound as well as a somewhat mechanical bent. Krebs uses the electric bass exclusively, which gives the music an upbeat and walking lift, and Aragon is more demonstrative and up front in his concept of drumming. In either case, Mackay exhibits his capacity for getting and holding your attention with his improvising skills while he gingerly skates over the keys with airy finesse. His playing has quality and his product has appeal.
Jerry L. Atkins,
KTXK-FM Radio (Texas),
nice surprise. I held back listening to this one for no particular
reason but maybe because I wasn't familiar with all of the music.
Now, I've found that it's something I'm coming back to because of
the originals by John. A very pleasing release.
Jerry L. Atkins
wonderfully expressive session from Novato, California based pianist
John Mackay is evidence that the future of the Jazz piano trio is
secure. Mackay is a thoughtful, introspective colorist who carefully
paces his improvisations to logical and peaceful resolutions. There's
nothing bombastic about this musical aesthetic. . . . a suite of highly
cohesive solos, each bearing a marked focal point or climax. A singing,
orchestral approach to the piano is favored throughout, and the leader
wisely recognizes the value of simplicity in melodic development.
One is not likely to hear more personal interpretations of the familiar standards, Smile, Bye Bye Blackbird, and You and the Night and the Music, each of which is masterfully reharmonized. Mackay's challenging Psychotic Dance Moves is a gem, a fascinating exploration of polyrhythms and group dynamics.
Peaced Heart and Often Grin is a refreshing example of musical form at the service of content.
James D. Armstrong Jr.