Fill a house with a half-dozen musician friends and let them play whatever they want to play. If they are jazz musicians of the finest order, expect them to play standards made famous by jazz masters like Ellington, Davis, and Rollins. Give them the freedom to improvise and record live with acoustic instruments. Toss in a few originals to personalize the hang. This is how saxophonist Mike MacArthur (www.mikemacarthur.com) recorded “Feels Like Home,” the album produced by Grammy-nominated bassist Brian Bromberg. Radio stations are presently feeling “Sanctified,” the sultry soul-powered single, and a half dozen glowing album reviews have already been published ahead of the June 4th release date.
The house was Bromberg’s suburban Los Angeles home and the seed of the project was planted a few years ago when he repeatedly asked MacArthur “When are you going to let me make an album for you?” The stars finally aligned – literally and figuratively - and MacArthur left his home in Tampa to camp out until the sessions were finished. Long-time friends from Tampa, Ron Reinhardt (piano, B-3 organ) and Frank “Third” Richardson (drums), completed the quartet. Fusion innovator Jeff Lorber came by to noodle on the piano and percussionist Alex Acuna decorated the tracks. Trumpeter Rick Braun and guitarist Jeff Golub joined the festivities as ten songs were recorded, including three originals - the title track, “Around The Corner” and “Sydney Style” – written by MacArthur. As a producer, Bromberg set an organic tone and simply let the players play sparking spontaneity that produced magic. While serving as the focal point of the soulful jazz grooves, MacArthur’s tenor sax graciously shared the spotlight with his friends, who were all given ample room to roam.
The set opens with Horace Silver’s “Filthy McNasty” on which MacArthur demonstrates that he’s a team player on the swinging groove by giving Lorber’s ferocious piano, Braun’s fiery trumpet and Bromberg’s walking bass equal billing with his sax. Tension builds before erupting into a joyous celebration ignited by Bromberg’s swinging bass on Joe Zawinul’s “Birdland.” An original tune that Bromberg found for MacArthur, “Sanctified” possesses crossover gospel elements thanks to the churchlike vocal runs belted out by Alva Copeland. “Feels Like Home” is a heartfelt ballad with a gorgeous melody gracefully emoted from MacArthur’s sax. He wrote the boisterous blues joint “Around The Corner” specifically with Golub’s gritty guitar chops in mind. An iconic Miles Davis tune that MacArthur has been playing live as a set closer, “Jean Pierre” gives the members of the talented ensemble a chance to let loose on the free form funk-jazz cut that has an edgy, “get down groove.” Written on piano in his daughter Sydney’s playroom while the then 5-year-old was gleefully dancing, MacArthur refers to the frenetic “Sydney Style” as the “up tune on the album.” On Sonny Rollins’ “Blue Seven,” edgy and disjointed beats coalesce with guitarist Gannin Arnold’s funk riffs, which spike the simmering brew before Bromberg’s bass pummels the sweaty groove. Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood” was recorded as a somber sax and bass duet rendering it stark, visceral, and deeply affecting. Concluding the record with a rousing romp, MacArthur played “Mo Better Blues” in his high school big band and selected it for the album because the song “has been part of me going back to my roots and it feels like home.”
A native of Rochester, New York who returns whenever possible to encourage and mentor high school musicians, MacArthur’s first professional gig was a 2-year stint touring in Maynard Ferguson’s big band. That led to more touring with Grammy winner Diane Schuur before MacArthur decided to settle down in Tampa where he led his own jazz group. He played sideman dates with Braun, Bromberg, Golub, and a slew of bold face names, but recording “Feels Like Home” backed by a marquee entourage felt like a career turning point. He recently opened for Queen Latifah and eagerly anticipates more solo concert dates to support the new album. Have you listened to “Feels Like Home” and considered MacArthur for a feature, interview, album review and/or an appropriate roundup piece? Please let me know if you need anything on our end. Thanks for your consideration.
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