Frank Macchia

Primary Instrument: Composer/conductor

Born: October 12, 1958    

Frank Macchia

Born and raised in San Francisco, CA., Frank started on the clarinet at the age of ten years old. Soon afterward he began studies on bassoon, saxophone and flute. By the age of fourteen he began studying composition, writing jazz and classical pieces for his high school band and orchestra and for jazz ensembles that rehearsed at the local union hall, including trumpeter Mike Vax's Big Band.

In 1975-76 Frank wrote jazz/classical hybrid works that were performed by the San Francisco Symphony and local professional jazz musicians at the Summer Music Workshop Programs, and he composed and conducted an orchestral overture for his high school graduation ceremony. During this time period he also performed and arranged music for contemporary dance bands in the Bay Area....
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1979- Down Beat DB Award (2nd place) "March of the Gargoyles"
1981- National Endowment for the Arts Grant- for jazz composition
1997- Publisher's Weekly "Listen Up" Award
2004 Sundance Film Composer Fellow
2007- Blue Chip Award- best Jazz of 2007 from Dr. Herb Wong
2007 Grammy Nomination - Best Instrumental Arrangement for "Black Is the Color Of My True Love's Hair"
2008 Grammy Nomination - Best Instrumental Arrangement for "Down In the Valley"
2010 Grammy Nomination - Best Instrumental Arrangement for "Skip to My Lou"
2010 JazzTimes Critics Best of 2010- "Folk Songs for Jazzers"
2010 Down Beat Top CDs of 2010- "Folk Songs for Jazzers"
Review by Michael Jackson
March, 2013

This is the sophomore outing for California saxophonist Frank Macchia's Swamp Thang sextet, and artist Guy Vasilovich has created another terrifying cover painting, satisfying Macchia's macabre sense of humor (he produced a series of audio horror stories titled “Little Evil Things” back in the late '90s). “Thumpety Thump Thump” is a terror that awaits many of us since it refers to a heart complaint brought on by indulgent eating, as Macchia half apologetically recounts from personal experience. It fi ts the gumbo theme of New Orleans with funk and second line fl avors ostensible on “Zig Zag” (a nod to Zigaboo Modeliste?), a slow cooked feature for guitarist Ken Rosser, and “Jiggle Wiggle,” which boasts more whipcrack playing from drummer Frank Briggs. Macchia has scored signifi cant fi lm music, is clearly idiomatically eclectic and has plenty of pull with crack L.A. studio musicians. He borrows Bo Diddley's patent riff, taking it into the fourth dimension à la Eddie Harris with quartal harmony on “Diddley Vs Spock.” “Groovin' For Daze” kicks off with Steve Cropper-like guitar licks exhuming the heyday of the Memphis Stax sound, Rosser nicely borrowing elements of Macchia's solo for the beginning of his own. “Shimmy Go-Bop” is in 15/8 and has some effective counterpoint in the arrangement before the unison fi nale. The lugubrious bass intro to “Red Light” suggests a damp brothel on Hamburg's Reeperbahn, but then the tune kicks into an easy lilt recalling Joe Zawinul's “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” “Falling Off The Wagon” has more urgency with Macchia pumping baritone riffs against the horn line and James Brown styled background chank heralding another Rosser shred. The enterprising leader overdubs fl utes on “Walkin' The Hog” while John Rosenberg fl ips to clavinet. The dense funk of “Three Leg Pony” regurgitates phrases, Macchia continually spicing the pot.

Emotions CD:
Jazz Times
June, 2007

When he was 15, Frank Macchia heard Focus, the famous Stan Getz Album with string arrangements by Eddie Sauter. Thirty years later, it’s the inspiration behind this album, which features the Prague Orchestra. Macchia plays tenor saxophone and on one track, bass flute and synthesizer and he wrote all the arrangements and composed nine of the 11 tunes. The music is dark and rich and definitely programmatic. Parts of it could be a movie soundtrack an atmospheric score full of romance and intrigue.

Take his “Dark Corners,” for example, a bow to film composer Bernard Herrmann. This one has not only the Getz-Sauter sound, but also a haunting otherworldliness akin to Gil Evans’ arrangements. The Evans influence also appears on “Prayer for Earth,” a blend of Tracy London’s voice, Macchia’s bass flute and synthesizer, and several overdubs of each. The folk song, “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” is another thrilling mood piece. On his four-part “Emotions” suite he employs strings alone; on others he uses strings, woodwinds and two harps.

Macchia’s tenor isn’t slavishly Getz-like, although there is a certain tonal similarity from time to time. He threads lyrically through these arrangements with graceful fluency and a nice bulk in his sound. Taken together, this combination of tenor soloist and strings is a lovely and substantive affair.

Los Angeles Times
by Casey Dolan
February, 2007

Macchia has worked as a tenor sax player with some great artists- Ella Fitzgerald, Van Dyke Parks, Brian Wilson, Clare Fischer- and composed and orchestrated several major film scores. On “Elegy” from his recent CD “Emotions”, he is accompanied by the Prague Orchestra. He has an open, soaring and appropriately poignant sound, with a nod toward the blues. The rich, lachrymose close-voiced string writing is aided by impeccable production; the dynamics are given a wide-screen presentation. It is all reminiscent of Jan Garbarek's work with string sections on ECM in the 70's or Macchia's great influence, Stan Getz and his “Focus” with Eddie Sauter's string arrangements from 1961.

”Mo' Animals” CD:
Signal to Noise
by Larry Nai, July 2006

Mo' Animals is the third straight release from Frank Macchia that has vigorously flattened me on first hearing. A West Coast composer/arranger/instrumentalist whose CV includes Tony Bennett, Hollywood movies, and television might be initially looked at askance by us avant types, but I'll shuffle play this guy with Sun Ra, Ellington, Gil Evans, and Henry Mancini any day. Macchia's particular genius is how he has molded an apparently vast intake of influences into his own, very distinct universe. As with its predecessor, Animals, the 10 tracks on Mo' are each named for a different animal, and yes, the writing and arranging evoke said animals. But this is no cutesy anthropomorphism — this is wonderfully conceived, beautifully executed stuff.. “Whales,” for example, is a ghostly, multi-tracked duet for Macchia and vocalist Tracy London. Using jazz as a basis, it pulls in such reference points as Brian Wilson, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, and Nurse With Wound's Salt Marie Celeste.
The insane, flute-led melody of “Hummingbirds” throws up a Macchia alto solo that's a glorious mix of free swagger and bebop rigor, while “Chickens” has marvelous, spastic pecking banjo motion by Grant Geissman. “Rhinos” shows Macchia's affinity for Frank Zappa in a wild, electric stomper with a sexy baritone sax solo from the leader, while “Pigs,” with its lumbering low end scoring and contrabass clarinet, can't help evoke Anthony Braxton's writing for the nether registers. The breathtaking hues of “Bats” resonate with a striking wash of color, akin to Henry Mancini's great “Lujon,” from 1961. Headphones are recommended to hear the full range of Macchia's fertile imagination, but by all means listen.

  • Grease Mechanix

  • Frank Macchia's Swamp Thang

  • Fried Zombie Stew

    Original Jazz Classics
  • Son of Folk Songs for Jazzers

  • Son Of Folk Songs For Jazzers

    Original Jazz Classics
  • Folk Songs For Jazzers

  • Saxolollapalooza

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Primary Instrument:

Burbank, CA

Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.

Professor at Berklee College of Music 1980-1981- taught arranging and harmony Will teach arranging, composition, orchestration @ $100 per hour lesson in Los Angeles Area - private instruction focused on students' needs and desires. Analysis of Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, Thad Jones, as well as Stravinsky, Bartok, orchestration techniques.

Endorser for Alexander Reeds Plays Selmer Saxophones Haynes Flute Hogenhuis Contrabass Flute Selmer/Yamaha/Leblanc Clarinets

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