Doug MacDonald is not only a very skilled bop-oriented guitarist but has long been a busy bandleader too, whether heading small units or a big band. He grew up in Philadelphia, spent important periods performing in Hawaii and Las Vegas, and has been part of the Southern California jazz scene for decades. MacDonald has performed with a countless number of greats including Buddy Rich, Rosemary Clooney, Ray Charles, Bill Holman, Jack Sheldon, and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. As a leader, he has headed over two dozen albums.

Big Band Extravaganza features the guitarist with his 17-piece orchestra, an ensemble that he first formed in Feb. 2020. In addition to his playing, MacDonald wrote all but one of the songs (“But Not For Me”) and also contributed the arrangements. The result is a set of no-holds barred swinging. The performances put an emphasis on each song’s melody while at the same time challenging the soloists to stretch themselves in consistently exciting fashion.

Along the way, such fine players L.A.-based players as trumpeters Carl Saunders and Aaron Janik, trombonists Les Benedict and Ivan Malespin, altoist Kim Richmond, tenor-saxophonist Rickey Woodard, baritonist Tim McKay and pianists Andy Langham and Bill Cunliffe have opportunities to say their piece as does the leader-guitarist. Several of these songs (including “Toluca Lake Jazz,” “Lucas Azules,” “Desert Jazz,” the boogaloo “De Ha” and “Ya Know Bill” are well worth adopting by other jazz artists in search of fresh material.

Big Band Extravaganza will be enjoyed by any listener who loves a swinging jazz orchestra.

Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian