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CD Review: Doug McDonald "View of the City"

Doug McDonald – Guitar

Harvie S – Bass

Steve Williams – Drums

Los Angeles-based guitarist Doug McDonald returned to Queens, New York to record the intimate trio album View of the City. The laid-back session demonstrates both impeccable group synergy and captivating individual expressiveness. The three musicians exchange spontaneous lines in crisp and witty conversations as they embellish the melodies of a mix of originals and standards.

The boppish “Al’s Pals” is energetic and vibrant. It features a clever and delightful back and forth between McDonald and bassist Harvie S. The two men alternate overlaying ad lib phrases and trading bars in a whimsical and dramatic manner over drummer Steve Williams’s percolating beats.

Williams opens the ensemble’s Latinesque interpretation of Kurt Weil’s “Speak Low” with a thunderous solo. McDonald extemporizes with eloquence and breathtaking agility. S takes center stage with mellifluous lyricism as McDonald’s sparse chords provide atmospheric support.

The tender ballad “Emily” has a romantic mood and showcases McDonald’s poetic improvisation and his deceptively facile approach to a tune. S matches McDonald’s warm and fluid sound with his emotive, reverberating strings.

The band’s interplay simmers with soul on the McDonald composition “Gateway Blues.” Williams thrills with his polyrhythms while McDonald’s resonant tones burn with an indigo-hued fervor. S again exhibits his breathtaking dexterity in handling his massive instrument as he performs a brief yet poignant soliloquy.

McDonald is equally at home playing bossa nova. He deconstructs the effervescent Antonio Carlos Jobim piece “Corcovado,” unaccompanied, with passion and brilliance. His own “Bossa Don” is an intelligent and infectious tribute to a friend who has recorded McDonald live on several occasions. S matches McDonald in sophistication and elegance as Williams lays down and understated and frothy groove.

McDonald has an easily recognizable style that nevertheless continues to evolve. Rooted firmly in the mainstream, the music on View of the City, similar to his dozen or so other recordings, is far from groundbreaking—yet highly satisfying and full of charm.

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