Album Review of
Live in Hawaii

Written by Joe Ross
May 17, 2021 - 2:47am EDT
Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star Review Rating Star

Originally from Philadelphia, west coast journeyman guitarist Doug MacDonald began his career in Hawaii in the mid-70s. He relocated to Las Vegas, and then to Los Angeles. With a prolific catalog of 18 albums spanning from solo performance to big bands, the guitarist has built a solid reputation for technique, tone and taste. Co-produced by Don Thomson, Live in Hawaii casts MacDonald with Noel Okimoto (vibraphone), Dean Taba (bass) and Darryl Pellegrini (drums) at a November 2019 show at Hawaii Public Radio's Atherton Performing Arts Studio in Honolulu. The quartet clearly has good chemistry.  MacDonald acknowledges that their musical relationship is “empathetic and inspiring” and that Okamoto’s vibraphone “lends a unique color to the group’s palette.”

Opening with a soulful interpretation of Harold Arlen’s “My Shining Hour,” the quartet’s set continues with expressive pieces like “Blues in the Closet” and “Lester Leaps In” that display their virtuosity and musicality. I had heard MacDonald play his evocative self-penned “Bossa Don” in a trio setting on his 2018 View of the City album, and this latest album’s lengthened 9-minute rendition allows for some different artistic expression, fluidity and improvisation with these jazz cats. MacDonald’s other original, “Cat City Samba” has a memorable melody that’s played and then jammed with passion. For a live album, this group maintains a high energy level, has clarion sound, and presents seven songs with masterful precision, intonation and clarity.  (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)