"The older I get and the more I play, the more I realize the magic of it all," says violinist Donald MacLennan, on his passion for swing-based gypsy jazz music. For the last decade, the Antigonish resident has been fiddling with all manner of folk artists—including Ben Caplan, Jennah Barry and Michael Dalton—and with quartets and trios in the avant-garde jazz series SuddenlyLISTEN, without an album of his own. But this Wednesday, after spending years crafting it, MacLennan releases his debut CD, the exceptional, masterful and magical Belleville.
Co-produced with songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dan MacCormack, the 13-song record also features musicians Ron Hynes, Matt Myer and ECMA winner Duane Andrews. "All of them are my friends," says MacLennan. "I was fortunate to have played with them before. They had all said that whenever I do a record, they'd love to be a part of it. So that had to do with how the arrangements came about."
MacLennan first fell in love with gypsy jazz about 10 years ago, and hasn't looked back "I'm interested in different types of fusion you could bring to the style," he says. The album is coloured by various elements. "Because the style is a blending of jazz from the '20s, '30s and '40s, as well as gypsy and klezmer melodies from Russia, France and Belgium, it definitely has dark corners, traditionally. It's often uptempo and uplifting, but it's a very emotional music." These dark feelings are found on his cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," presented in a very different, "almost demented" light.
The Parton cover also showcases MacLennan's singing voice on the mostly instrumental album. Singing is new for him, just like like being a headliner, but he is ready for centre stage. He says he's beyond stoked to bring the sounds of Belleville to The Carleton.
Donald MacLennan CD Release Show
Wednesday, April 6, 8pm
The Carleton Music Bar & Grill, 1685 Argyle Street