Associate Professor of Music, Director of Jazz Studies
Personal website: www.EarlMacDonald.com
Earl MacDonald lives jazz, as a performer, composer and educator. His latest CD, "Re:Visions – Works for Jazz Orchestra" received a 2011 Canadian Juno Award nomination for "best traditional jazz album of the year" and has been praised consistently by jazz critics. In a review for AllAboutJazz.com, Dan Bilawsky stated, "Re:Visions goes beyond where most big bands go, and establishes Earl MacDonald as a major force in the world of jazz composition". From this album, Earl's composition, "Bad Dream" was selected as the winner in the jazz song category of the Tenth Annual Independent Music Awards.
Earl was the musical director, pianist, and arranger for the Maynard Ferguson Big Bop Nouveau Band from 1998 to 2000. As music director he was responsible for programming and rehearsing this world-renowned ensemble. In 2002, MacDonald won the Sammy Nestico Award, for outstanding big band arranging. Earl was selected as a finalist for 2007 Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Award during his affiliation with the BMI Jazz Composer's Workshop in New York City. He also appeared as an international finalist for the 2008 and 2011 ArtEZ Composition Contest in the Netherlands.
Currently Associate Professor and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Connecticut, the Winnipeg native earned a bachelor of music degree in jazz performance at McGill University and a master of music degree at Rutgers, where he apprenticed with Kenny Barron. Earl is dedicated to music education, participating as a clinician, guest conductor and teacher at summer camps, in addition to his teaching at the University of Connecticut. The UConn Chapter of the American Association of University Professors honored MacDonald with its 2006 Excellence Award for Teaching Innovation and 2003 Teaching Promise awards.
Earl's piece, "Wanton Spirit" was the title track for Kenny Barron's 1994 Grammy-nominated CD. More recently, his compositions for 17-piece jazz orchestra have been performed by the Airmen of Note, the Westchester Jazz Orchestra, the Millennium Jazz Orchestra, and university-based jazz ensembles from the Eastman School of Music, the University of North Texas, Rutgers, McGill, Rowan University, Lawrence University, Grant MacEwan University, Amherst College, the University of Manitoba and the University of Louisville, among others.
For his work as musical director and composer-in-residence of the Hartford Jazz Society's "New Directions Ensemble", MacDonald earned the votes of Hartford Advocate readers and won the distinction "best jazz group in Hartford" in the 2011 Grand Band Slam.
Visit Earl's web site, www.earlmacdonald.com, where you can read reviews, hear and purchase music, take a free online lesson, peruse Earl's blog, and learn more about his performances, teaching, and latest projects.
Listen to music by Earl MacDonald
Dick Oatts, alto saxophone — Joe Magnarelli, trumpet — Steve Davis, trombone
Earl MacDonald, piano — Dave Santoro, double bass — Tom Melito, drums
Bad Dream (composed and arranged by Earl MacDonald)
The Bidwell Cronies (composed and arranged by Earl MacDonald)
• "The debut CD of the Earl MacDonald 6, Echoes in the Night, is a classy recording with excellent ensemble playing, interesting arrangements, and well-crafted solos. The ensemble's conceptual approach to its music provides a strong unifying feature throughout the CD and makes for an interesting, as well as, enjoyable listening experience." — Frank Bongiorno, Saxophone Journal, Sept. / Oct. 2006
• "Sea Breeze is a fine mainstream label that deserves recognition for putting out Echoes in the Night by the talented pianist Earl MacDonald and his new sextet. The music is nevertheless very ingratiating and delightful, if not startlingly original." — Budd Kopman, allaboutjazz.com, August 2005
• "Jazz pianist, educator, and composer Earl MacDonald has assembled six extremely talented players, gifted in the art of expressing jazz with his current CD effort, 'Echoes in the Night.' The overall artistic contour of the disc is as smooth as it gets for the bebop idiom … All accented by unexpected counterpoint, and tons of interesting rhythmic variety. I sense an attempt by the group to create a hybrid jazz form. If I'm on the right track, I feel their pursuit is a worthy goal. Last, may I say that the group's extemporaneous musical expression of ideas, emotions, and their life experiences are exemplified quite well in the delivery of their total musical offering." — George W. Carrol, JazzReview.com, March 2005
• "Jazz mainstreamers will find this music delightfully approachable…. Avant garde lovers will delight in the subtle way these players stray again and again from dyed-in-the-wool generic sounds." — Paul Lewis, allaboutjazz.com, May 2005
• "The inspired solo work flows from the clever writing contained in Earl MacDonald's charts, and the smooth overall aspect of the music is both swinging and tuneful. Nice sounds with excellent solos and a hip rhythm section." — Al Merritt, jazznow.com, November 2005
• "The sound of this sextet is unique and if they strived for originality, they achieved it with total success. 4 Stars." — John Gilbert, ejazznews.com, March 2005
• "This group works a well-worn field but they do it with style and intelligence." — Jerome Wilson, Cadence Magazine, The Review of Jazz & Blues: Creative Improvised Music, Vol. 31, No. 10. October 2005