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 “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, Amherst College, Grant MacEwan University, the University of Manitoba, the University of Redlands, 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.