All too often, concept albums can seem forced. Music initiated from simple images or feelings tends to work better than music built around grand unified concepts. But, on Frank Macchia's "Mo' Animals," the combination of images, feelings and concepts feel more organic. What's more, these 10 tunes, each based on a species, swing hard, and then some.
While classical music has a rich mimetic tradition of reproducing the serenity of a swan or the lonesome howl of a wolf, jazz has rarely tried it. Multi-instrumentalist Macchia's octet is big enough to create dense rhythms, but small enough to add subtle support when Macchia's bass ocarina (a wind instrument that produces soft tones) reproduces the hauntingly beautiful "Whales" or his electric bass clarinet leaps along on the warty "Frogs." Not only do Macchia's melodies flit around like a hummingbird (track one) or grunt and snort like pigs (track three), but the band (L.A. jazz and soundtrack specialists) improvises like them too. On "Elephants" trumpet lines blast up and out over heavy, stomping drums, while the solos on "Chickens" coo and cluck with banjo, clarinet and a taut piano.
Macchia started his zoo musicology three years ago. With "Mo Animals," he shows no sign of slowing down.