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 Saturday, 28 November 2015
Larry McDonough and Richard Terrill Celebrate “Solitude” on October 4 PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Tuesday, 02 October 2012

Larry McDonough©Andrea Canter

“What do children with disabilities, Rachmaninoff, Bill Evans, Cole Porter, The Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Jeff Bridges, the Middle East, the Star Spangled Banner, odd meters, and award-winning Minnesota poetry have in common? Solitude.”    --  Larry McDonough and Richard Terrill


Balancing the life of a fulltime musician and an active Legal Aid attorney, pianist Larry McDonough conveys nothing but spirited equilibrium in his far-ranging compositions and off-beat arrangements. A perfect foil for McDonough has long been professor/poet/saxophonist Richard Terrill, who has frequently contributed his elegant musical “poetry” to the work of the Larry McDonough Quartet. So what could be more natural than a piano/sax duet recording? On October 4th, McDonough and Terrill celebrate the release of Solitude at the Artists Quarter.

Larry McDonough first studied piano in fourth grade, added some vocals and gravitated to neighborhood garage bands in junior high, and was already gigging around town as a high school student in Bloomington, MN. (“I snuck out of the house,” he admits in the interview segment on his 2011 DVD.)  Earning a degree in music education at the University of Minnesota, he had the opportunity to play both piano and trumpet in student ensembles with legends Clark Terry and Thad Jones, and in concerts for President Nixon and the President of Mexico. Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, McDonough worked as a part-time band instructor at Bloomington and Minneapolis high schools, and played in a number of Twin Cities’ bands, ranging from jazz to pop and polka.  He also performed in his own duos and trios, appearing regularly at the old Night Train club in St. Paul and at Jax Café in Minneapolis. 


Concerned that his music career was taking him too far from the “real world,” McDonough enrolled in the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul in 1980, initially attracted to environmental law but then falling in love with legal aid work. He noted, “Music seemed isolated from everything else that was going on in the world… While I think music can be inspirational for the moment and have motivating aspects to it, it doesn't directly impact things that are more basic to a person's life and existence.” After a few years away from music, he began giving some limited performances, primarily at private functions, including one honoring First Lady Hillary Clinton, but remained focused on his family (he has three daughters) and his career with Legal Aid. He has been recognized by Minnesota Law and Politics as a "Super Lawyer," and by William Mitchell College of Law as one of "100 Who Made a Difference.”


Music has pulled McDonough more into the public arena since the late 1990s. “The music gives me an artistic, expressive side. There are some elements in the law where you can do that, but, in music, it's more open-ended, especially in jazz.” He began playing publicly again in solo, duo and trio formats, and with the popular fusion group, Bozo Allegro, and with (among others) the Wolverines; vocalists Patty Peterson, Shirley Witherspoon, Connie Olson, and Vicki Mountain; bassists Bruce "Pooch" Heine, Tom Lewis, and Billy Peterson; guitarists Mike Elliott, Brian Barnes, and Bill Bergmann; drummers Dave Stanoch, Phil Hey, and Kevin Washington; horn players Eric Leeds, Dave Jensen, Kathy Jensen, and Jeff King; and with legendary jazz-funk trombonist, Fred Wesley. He also shared the stage with bop sax legend Benny Golson and trumpeter Duane Eubanks. In April 2007, Larry was inducted into the Minnesota Rock Country Hall of Fame for his work in the group, Danny’s Reasons.


Among a number of diverse projects, Larry has been involved with Fingersteps, a program in which children with disabilities write melodies and perform music using adaptive computer hardware and software. McDonough also merges spirituality with his music, often adapting faith-based musical pieces by changing the basic elements to create new arrangements. A composer since high school, Larry currently puts his writing skills to work by composing and arranging music for school music programs, ranging from small groups to concert and jazz bands, exposing young musicians to his “offbeat” harmonies and rhythms. He has also taught through his adjunct appointment to the music faculty of the University of Minnesota.


Larry McDonough’s recordings include his acclaimed solo debut, Small Steps, Tuscarora, and the quartet’s Simple Gifts (2005), a set of divergent delights ranging from reconstructed holiday chestnuts to reinvented standards to original tunes. My Favorite Things: Odd Times for Jazz Ensemble, Orchestra and Concert Band (2007) a series of area high school ensemble performances of McDonough’s original works and arrangements. Earlier this year, the quartet celebrated a DVD filmed through Baby Blue Arts (Live at Music Connection), showcasing original works and arrangements. And watch out for the upcoming release from The Larry McDonough Group, Angels and Kings, My Favorite Things, a collection of ten years of holiday music from Mr. McGoo to Rodgers and Hammerstein to Paul Simon, with new harmonies, structures, and even some free jazz. 

What most attracts listener’s to his music is Larry’s ability to turn time inside out and maintain harmonic integrity, arranging familiar pieces in 5/4 or 7/4 time, giving them a different sound and feel without losing the underlying melody. Further, his feathery touch recalls Bill Evans but with more fingers; his left hand alternately propels and sings; his dazzling two-handed runs display clear articulation from every digit.


Richard Terrill©Andrea Canter
Richard Terrill (tenor and soprano sax) received the 2004 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry (Coming Late to Rachmaninoff). A Professor of English at Minnesota State University Mankato, Dick has performed with guitarist Jim McGuire, with Chaz Draper's Uptown Jazz Quartet, and with pianist Geoffrey Keezer, as well as in bands led by Myron Floren, Dick Dale, Larry Elgart, and Bob Crosby.  As a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, he performed with the school’s acclaimed Jazz Ensemble and with later-to-be Pat Metheny keyboardist Lyle  Mays in the Lyle Mays Quartet.


Terrill is the author of the poetry collections Coming Late to Rachmaninoff (University of Tampa Press, 2003), for which he received the 2004 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry, and Almost Dark (University of Tampa Press, 2009).  Noted the University of Tampa Press, “Terrill has an eye for the ironic and the beautiful, an ear for music and the music of language.” Dick’s other literary works include a memoir on teaching in China (Saturday Night in Baoding), a children’s book on Duke Ellington, and his jazz memoir,  Fakebook: Improvisations on a Journey Back to Jazz (Limelight Editions, 2000). Of Fakebook, former cohort Lyle Mays wrote, “In his description of the noble struggle to create something meaningful in that difficult and mysterious realm of music we call jazz, Terrill finds some surprising truths and insights about the broader business of living life." 



Solitude brings a new twist to the decade-plus collaboration between pianist and saxophonist, attorney and poet. Over their years performing in the quartet idiom, Larry McDonough and Richard Terrill have developed an artful empathy, McDonough generally assuming a leading role, with Terrill serving as a counterweight and harmonic partner. Solitude is their first project as an unadorned duo, the music stripped to its essence without external pulsetter and drive train. In such a spare sonic wonderland, the duo reconsider some past delights, mine gold in new arrangements and revel in new compositions. For Richard, music is poetry transformed in sound and rhythm; for Larry, melody is an auspicious starting point, time an endless playground. Together, theirs is a “solitude” that evolves when two minds become one heart.


On October 4 at the Artists Quarter, Larry McDonough and Richard Terrill celebrate the “Solitude” of their partnership, enhancing the music with special guest, flautist Carole Bergquist. This family-friendly event begins at 9 pm, following the Twin Cities Jazz Society’s Young Artists series gig featuring Malonious Thunk, a quintet of UW-Eau Claire jazz students led by Mike Malone.  In Mankato, you can enjoy another CD release night with Larry and Dick on Friday, October 5th, at the Wine Café,  301 North Riverfront Drive, Mankato; 507-345-1516;



The Artists Quarter is located at 408 St Peter Street, in the lower level of the Hamm Building in downtown St. Paul; More about Larry McDonough and his recordings is available at


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