Born: October 12, 1958 Primary Instrument: Composer/conductor
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.
In 1976 Frank attended Berklee College of Music, studying woodwinds with Joseph Viola, Joe Allard, Steve Grossman and composition/arranging with Herb Pomeroy, Phil Wilson, Greg Hopkins, Tony Texiera, and Ken Pullig. From 1976-80 he performed and composed for the top student ensembles as well as performing with his own ensembles. He received a National Endowment Grant for the Arts to compose a 90 minute continuous jazz/ classical suite for large ensemble. He also won Down Beat magazine's DB award for original big band composition in 1979.
After graduating with a degree in traditional composition, Frank taught at Berklee at the tender age of 20, as well as performed throughout the New England area with his 8-piece fusion group, 'Booga-Booga'. In 1981 Frank moved back to the San Francisco area where he continued working as a musician and composer/arranger over the next ten years, performing concerts with such artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Rita Moreno, Tony Bennett, Jack Jones, Clare Fischer, Chuck Mangione, and the Temptations, to name a few. He performed with local groups such as The Bay Area Jazz Composers Orchestra, Mike Vax's Great American Jazz Band, Royal Street, the Dick Bright Orchestra and the Melotones. He also led his own original groups, including The Gleets, Desperate Character and The Frankie Maximum Band. In 1989 he recorded Introducing Frankie Maximum, an eclectic CD that showcased original material in a variety of styles, from new wave to polka. He followed that with the CD Frankie Maximum Goes Way-er Out West, a wild romp through traditional cowboy folksongs, done with new treatments (Ringo as a hip-hop jazz tune!?). This 1991 album received much critical praise including being named one of the top ten albums of the year by the Oakland Tribune
In 1991 Frank toured Germany performing in productions of West Side Story and 42nd Street, and when that tour was over, he found himself in Los Angeles, where he has remained ever since. Since 1992 he has worked as a composer/orchestrator on many films and television projects, including Superman Returns, Pirates of the Carribean 3, Fantastic Four-Rise of the Silver Surfer, Transformers, Miracle, X2-Xmen United, Men of Honor, Eight Legged Freaks, Ghosts of the Abyss, Austin Powers:Goldmember, The Contender, The Apt Pupil, Santa Clause 2, and television shows Night Visions, Nickelodeon's Oh Yeah Cartoons,Disney's Oliver Twist, and the Tonight Show. From 1997-2001 he created Little Evil Things, an award winning series of five CDs of horror stories with music accompaniment. In 2003 he completed his CD, The Galapagos Suite, a six movement suite based on the animals of the Galapagos Islands, where he and his wife Tracy visited. His next CD, Animals was released in Fall 2004, featuring Frank on multi-woodwinds and a roster of some of Los Angeles best musicians. His follow up CD called Mo' Animals was released in 2006. He released the CD Emotions featuring The Prague Orchestra in January 2007 which received a Grammy nomination for Best Arrangement (for Black Is the Color...), and a Blue Chip Award from Dr. Herb Wong for best of jazz and released a follow up CD with the Prague Orchestra entitled Landscapes, which also garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Arrangement for Down In the Valley. His 2009 project Saxolollapalooza is for six saxophonists and drums and features Eric Mareinthal, Bob Sheppard, Gene Cipriano, Sal Lozano, Jay Mason and Peter Erskine on drums. In January 2010 he released the CD Folk Songs for Jazzers featuring an all star 13 piece band featuring Wayne Bergeron, Peter Erskine, Ray Frisby, Grant Geissman, Trey Henry, Alex Iles, Sal Lozano, Jay Mason, Kevin Porter, Bill Reichenbach, Bob Sheppard and also features guest vocalists Tierney Sutton and Ellis Hall. That CD garnered Frank his third Grammy nomination. The band performs crazed re-imaginings of traditional folk songs in funk, swing, fusion, latin, odd-metered and ballad jazz styles. In 2011 he released SON of Folk Songs for Jazzers featuring the same personnel as the last CD with 12 new original arrangements of more wild 'n crazy folk songs. In 2012/2013 Macchia released two CDs of his original Funk/Jazz/New Orleans styled music called Swamp Thang and Fried Zombie Stew, featuring Eric Jensen and Ken Rosser on guitars, John Rosenberg on keyboards, Tom Lockett on bass, Frank Briggs on drums with guest appearances by Wayne Bergeron (trumpet) and Alex Iles (trombone), with Macchia on saxes and woodwinds.
Jan 2014 finds a new large ensemble release Grease Mechanix featuring Eric Marienthal, Brandon Fields, Bob Sheppard, Macchia, Sal Lozano, Jay Mason on reeds, Wayne Bergeron, Dan Fornero, Walt Fowler on trumpets, Alex Iles, Kevin Porter, Craig Gosnell on trombones, Bill Reichenbach on tuba, Ken Rosser on ele. guitar, Peter Erskine on drums and Brad Dutz on percussion. The concept of this CD is like a New Orleans Brass Band meets Tower of Power and Frank Zappa. The album also features some vocals by Macchia.Frank currently lives in Burbank, CA with his wife Tracy and son Charlie.
Awards: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
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.
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
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.
Frankie Maximum Goes Way-er Out West (1991)
The Galapagos Suite (2003)
Mo Animals (2006)
Folk Songs for Jazzers (2010)
SON of Folk Songs for Jazzers (2011)
Frank Macchia's Swamp Thang (2012)
Frank Macchia's Swamp Thang: Fried Zombie Stew (2013)
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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.