Pianist-composer Earl MacDonald isn’t one to rest on his laurels. His new recording, “Mirror of the Mind” embodies his ongoing search for new ways to express himself musically, while challenging the defining boundaries of jazz. By drawing upon outside influences and incorporating cello into his ensemble palette, Earl has again achieved the element of surprise for which reviewers have called him “visionary” and “startlingly original”.
His last CD, “Re:Visions – Works for Jazz Orchestra” received a 2011 Canadian Juno Award nomination for “traditional jazz album of the year”. 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. 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. Twice he appeared as a finalist for the 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 an active clinician, guest conductor and teacher at summer camps, in addition to his teaching at the University of Connecticut. The UConn Chapter of the AAUP honored MacDonald with its 2006 Excellence Award for Teaching Innovation and 2003 Teaching Promise awards. He recently received the 2013 School of Fine Arts Outstanding Faculty Award.
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”.
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.