Grease Mechanix / Frank Macchia
Frank Macchia has a new jazz/funk CD out with a huge band that will bring a huge smile to your face! Picture a triple sized New Orleans Brass Band: six saxophones, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, electric guitar, drums and percussion playing all new original music that will have you shaking, rattling and rolling with modern rhythms and funky goodness. Add a touch of humor in the form of whacky lyrics delivered by Macchia and you have Grease Mechanix! Grease Mechanix is comprised of a some of Los Angeles' finest jazz musicians, including Peter Erskine, Eric Marienthal, Wayne Bergeron, Brandon Fields, Bob Sheppard, Bill Reichenbach, Walt Fowler, Alex Iles, Sal Lozano, Dan Fornero, Kevin Porter, Jay Mason, Craig Gosnell, Ken Rosser and Brad Dutz. They play with wild and inspired abandon!
Welcome to my latest excursion into the world of sonic madness! I got the idea for this project after listening to some New Orleans brass bands and my favorite funk bands. The idea was to do a bunch of funk tunes where the tuba and bass sax would supply the bass lines, and rhythm guitar would do the chord component. I was incredibly honored to get some of my favorite musicians in Los Angeles to sign up for a day of intense recording where we laid down these tunes. The name Grease Mechanix was conceived because horn players always talk about adding some grease to blues licks, which means bending, growling or just getting nasty with the music! Okay, so here's some info on the tunes…
First up is Buckin' Bronco, a tour de force showcasing all the players in the band, in a crazed 7/4 groove reminiscent of Benny Goodman's Sing, Sing, Sing with a skip in the tom tom groove! Next we have my attempt to cash in on the zombie craze that's sweeping the nation with Zombies Ate My Grandma. I loved zombies, even before they were so popular. You can find the video for this one on youtube. Check it out, it's a hoot! Picture a chicken strutting across a coop and you get the idea of Chicken Neck. Alex Iles, Eric Marienthal and Peter Erskine get their funky chicken on. Next is a ballad that I recorded with my smaller band Swamp Thang, but re-arranged for the large ensemble. Shhhh! was written for my son Charlie when he was a baby, as a tune to relax him at night. If you listen closely to the lyrics of Bad Juju you'll hear just about every superstition that man has come up with. Check out Brandon Fields' great solo on this tune- it's one of my favorite solos on the album. Fat Cat is another odd metered funk thang that features Alex Iles, Ken Rosser, Sal Lozano and Peter Erskine. Most people know Sal as an alto saxophonist but he's a fabulous bari sax player too. Squiggles is a through composed slinky line played by Bob Sheppard on sax and me on contrabass clarinet. Bob's solo kills me, and check out the two part counterpoint soli by the band. I'm So Damn Mad is my ode to getting old and not being able to keep up with technology. I wanted to create a James Brown funk feel for this and the band abided! Bucket o' Tears is a feature for one of my favorite musicians on the planet, Bob Sheppard. He takes this tune and makes it his own, complete with a beautiful cadenza at the end. Atonal Dance Party (or Schoenberg's Strut as it's also known) was my idea of fusing 12 tone music with funk. Eric Marienthal and Walt Fowler play some really crazed solos, and there's even a three part fugue in the middle of it! This project wouldn't be possible if not for the two anchors of the band: Jay Mason on bass sax and Bill Reichenbach on tuba. They played some amazingly hard stuff and Sweet Patootie Waltz was written to feature them. Bulldog is a feature for trumpeter extraordinaire, Wayne Bergeron. The idea on this one was a kind of super low end fat rock groove, complete with a bass section of tuba, bass trombone, bass sax, bari sax, baritone guitar and contrabass clarinet. Wayne is the screaming lead guitarist in this rock basher! Finally there's Fatback Bubblebath. Originally it was going to be an instrumental, but then I starting thinking about lyrics describing washing your pig before you ended up eating him for dinner, and the weird storyline ensued!
I truly had a ball recording this and I want to thank all of these amazing musicians for giving their collective "grease" on this project. A big thanks to Dave Wells for doing quality control and Andy Waterman and Eric Astor for their superb work recording the band. Thanks to Rich Breen for his masterful mastering of the album. Last but not least, thanks to my best friend and biggest supporter Tracy London who also provided some great backup vocals on the tunes. Keep it greasy!!
-Frank Macchia, December 2013
1. (7:58) Buckin' Bronco
2. (5:18) Zombies Ate My Grandma
3. (7:10) Chicken Neck
4. (3:26) Shhhh!
5. (5:24) Bad Juju
6. (7:18) Fat Cat
7. (4:44) Squiggles
8. (4:24) I'm So Damn Mad!
9. (5:04) Bucket o' Tears
10. (5:06) Atonal Dance Party
11. (5:38) Sweet Patootie Waltz
12. (4:56) Bulldog
12. (6:00) Fatback Bubblebath
- Eric Marienthal: Alto Sax, Flute
- Brandon Fields: Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Flute, Piccolo
- Bob Sheppard: Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
- Frank Macchia: Tenor Sax, Bari Sax, Piccolo, Clarinet,
- Contrabass Clarinet, Vocals
- Sal Lozano: Bari Sax, Piccolo, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
- Jay Mason: Bass Sax, Bass Clarinet, Contrabass Clarinet
- Wayne Bergeron: Trumpet (lead), Flugelhorn
- Dan Fornero: Trumpet (co-lead), Flugelhorn
- Walt Fowler: Trumpet, Flugelhorn
- Alex Iles: Trombone
- Kevin Porter: Trombone
- Craig Gosnell: Bass Trombone
- Bill Reichenbach: Tuba
- Ken Rosser: Electric Guitar, Banjo, Baritone Guitar
- Peter Erskine: Drums
- Brad Dutz: Congas, Bongos, Tambourine, Shaker,
- Cowbell, Flexitone
- Tracy London: Vocals
- Dave Wells: Quality Control (Booth Supervision)
- Andy Waterman: Recording Engineer
- Eric Astor: Protools Engineer
- Rich Breen: Mastering Engineer
- Guy Vasilovich: Artwork
- Alex Chaloff: Photos and Video
All music composed and arranged by Frank Macchia
Recorded June 18, 2013
Down Beat Magazine, April 2014
Reviewer: David Kunian
From the cover of his new CD, Grease Mechanix - which portrays Ralph Bakshi-esque monkeys fixing instruments - to the overly dramatic arrangements, Frank Macchia pursues a decidedly gonzo vibe.
Most of the songs here are on overdrive, with loud trombones and high-climaxing solos from the reeds. It's refreshing in an era of too serious jazz to hear a band that takes their music seriously - but not that seriously. Instrumentals such as "Chicken Neck", with its cartoon-theme lines, and "Atonal Dance Party", with its jagged syncopation and tense saxophones, push the music over the top in a good way, making some of the songs sound like they could be exciting movie soundtracks.
Continuing on the gonzo theme, several songs feature Macchia and Tracy London's raspy vocals. Every bad-luck superstition you can think of is detailed on "Bad Juju", and there's tragic lament on "Zombies Ate My Grandma". The band plays a simple and beautiful ballad, "Shhhh!", and another ballad reminiscent of Neal Hefti's work for the Basie band, "Bucket O' Tears".
Macchia and his band wear their Frank Zappa and brassy, '70's big band-fusion influence on their sleeves. (Trumpeter Walt Fowler played with Zappa, and Peter Erskine manned the drums for both Maynard Ferguson and Weather Report). But the balance between fusion and sweet-hearted ballads make this a fine record, full of energy.
Cadence Magazine - July 2014 Issue
Well, that madcap Frank Macchia fellow is at it again. One glance at the artwork on the cover of Grease Mechanix will tell listeners familiar with his last two releases to expect some wild and wooly sounds from the assembled crew. There are some recognizable names to be spotted among them, like reedmen Bob Sheppard and smooth jazzers Brandon Fields & Eric Marienthal, brasseros Wayne Bergeron, Bill Reichenbach and Walt Fowler an ex-Mothers of Invention member and veteran drummer Peter Erskine. As usual, all of the compositions stem from the leader's pen and one look at some of the titles should tell us there are some doozies in there. Rave-ups like “Atonal Dance Party” cry out for an animation video and thrush Tracy London joins the leader for some vocalizing on several cuts. But there is also a laid back side to this madness and stuffed between “Chicken Neck” and “Bad Juju” is a lovely ballad and later on comes “Bucket O'Tears”. If one is curious this is as good as any a place to start but if you are already hip to this multi-instrumentalist's methodology dig in.
Jazz Inside Magazine - Jan. 2014
by Scott Yanow
Sometimes I wonder if there are two Frank Macchias. One is a very busy arranger-composer who has written for over 300 films and television shows, becoming a major fixture in the studios of Los Angeles. The other one is a bit crazier.
In his solo career, Frank Macchia has had a bewildering assortment of projects. Animals and its follow-up (naturally called Mo' Animals) gave him a chance to musically depict a variety of creatures. Other solo projects included leading ensembles called The Gleets, Desperate Character and The Frankie Maximum Band, collaborating with actress Tracy London on five spoken-word productions called Little Evil Things (a tribute to the style of 1950s horror comic books), and recording Emotions (a project in which each piece is based on a human emotion), and Saxolollapalooza (with a group consisting of six saxophones and drums). During 2010-11 he recorded Folk Songs For Jazzers and Son Of Folk Songs For Jazzers with a large ensemble that had some of the saxophonists playing as many as ten instruments, and the three trombonists all doubling on tuba. His electric six-piece party band Swamp Thang made two albums during 2012-13 (Swamp Thang and Fried Zombie Stew).
And yet, even with all of those colorful bands, Grease Mechanix may be the most flamboyant and nutty of all of Frank Macchia's projects. The 16-piece big band seems conventional except for having a bass saxophone and a tuba (the latter taking the place of the string bass), but there is nothing conventional about Macchia's originals or his vocals.
This extravaganza begins with "Buckin' Bronco," a piece in 7/4 that is inspired by "Sing, Sing, Sing" and Gene Krupa's drumming. The raging brass-heavy ensembles give way now and then for trombone (Alex Iles and Kevin Porter), saxophone (Brandon Fields and Bob Sheppard) and trumpet (Wayne Bergeron, Dan Fornero and Walt Fowler) battles.
The next song, the purposely demented "Zombies Ate My Grandma," could become a hit someday. It has the first of four Frank Macchia vocals, raspy outbursts worthy of Dr. John. "Chicken Neck" has a funky chicken rhythm with inventive solos by Alex Iles and Eric Marienthal. The relatively brief "Shhhh" seems conventional by comparison while "Bad Juju" has Macchia singing about bad luck and superstitions. The funky "Fat Cat" could get listeners dancing despite its odd accents; check out Ken Rosseer's wild guitar solo.
Bob Sheppard's tenor is featured on "Squiggles" (which has prominent Macchia on contrabass clarinet in the ensembles) and "Bucket o' Tears." "I'm So Damn Mad" has Macchia ranting about modern technology. "Atonal Dance Party" finds Walt Fowler and Eric Marienthal making sense over the rockish avant-groove. The bottom of the band, bass saxophonist Jay Mason and Bill Reichenbach on tuba are in the spotlight on "Sweet Patootie Waltz," Wayne Bergeron, a great lead trumpeter, gets to stretch out over the funk of "Bulldog." The concluding "Fatback Bubblebath" (about preparing one's pet pig to be eaten) brings this CD to its end.
Listeners who feel that jazz should have a strong sense of humor will enjoy this crazy but very musical CD.
All About Jazz
Reviewer: Jack Bowers
Published: December 18, 2013
Frank Macchia: Grease Mechanix (2013)
One thing that must be said about Frank Macchia (well, two things, actually)—he's a wild and crazy composer / bandleader whose satchel is always overflowing with splendid musical surprises. On his new album, Grease Mechanix, Macchia goes funky in a New Orleans brass band manner, employing a seventeen-piece ensemble comprised of some of the best sidemen the Los Angeles area has to offer to design such instant jazz classics as "Zombies Ate My Grandma," "Chicken Neck," "I'm So Damn Mad!," "Sweet Patootie Waltz" and "Fatback Bubblebath," to name only a few.
Another well-known maxim is that comedy is serious business, and if Macchia and his comrades customarily play with tongue in cheek, they are no less diligent or attuned to his musical strategy. Macchia envisioned the idea for this enterprise, he writes, "after listening to some New Orleans brass bands and [his] favorite funk bands. The idea was to do a bunch of funk tunes where the tuba and bass sax would supply the bass lines, and rhythm guitar would do the chord component." And so they do, with the tuba, bass sax and guitar in the capable hands of Bill Reichenbach, Jay Mason and Ken Rosser. And speaking of capable hands, drummer Peter Erskine sees to it that the rhythmic component is rock-solid, with ample help from Rosser and percussionist Brad Dutz.
Macchia, who wrote and arranged everything, takes a thunderous contrabass clarinet solo on the shuffling "Squiggles." He also sings (after a fashion) on "Zombies," "Bad Juju," "Fat Cat," "So Damn Mad!" and "Fatback," with Tracy London (and perhaps others) providing background vocals. While almost every tune is upbeat and buoyant, there is one departure in midstream, as Bob Sheppard's expressive tenor sax is showcased on the graceful "Bucket o' Tears." For lyricism, there's the charming "Sweet Patootie Waltz," whose deep-throated solos are by Reichenbach and Mason. And for fireworks, sample Wayne Bergeron's high-flying trumpet on the assertive "Bulldog," or the brassy opener, "Buckin' Bronco."
If you're partial to brass bands, emphatic rhythms, New Orleans-style swing or simply superlative contemporary jazz that embodies all those elements, it doesn't get much better than Macchia and his perceptive, sure-handed Grease Mechanix.
Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes
Reviewer: Ken Franckling
Frank Macchia, Grease Mechanix (Cacophony)
L.A.based saxophonist, composer and bandleader Frank Macchia is living proof that jazz can have a sense of humor. His latest recording, Grease Mechanix, features a big band with many of L.A.'s finest jazz musicians tearing it up with all of the funk of a rowdy New Orleans unit. Think Bonerama with saxophones rather than trombones – or a New Orleans brass band on steroids. The many featured players include drummer Peter Erskine, saxophonists Eric Marienthal and Bob Sheppard, trumpeters Wayne Bergeron and Walt Fowler, tuba player Bill Reichenbach and guitarist Ken Rosser. The funniest and oddest track for a jazz CD: "Zombies Ate My Grandma." Other favorites: "Chicken Shack," "Shhh!," "Fat Cat" and "Sweet Patootie Waltz."