Set List from Toronto’s Old Mill (10/21/2016)

trombonist Jules Estrin

I had the pleasure of playing in Toronto this past weekend, in the band of my old college roommate, Jules Estrin.  Jules is a very fine trombonist who just completed a Masters degree in jazz at the University of Toronto. We played at the Home Smith Jazz Bar at the Old Mill.  It was a beautiful venue with a nice Yamaha grand piano and an attentive, listening audience. Along with bassist/author Mike Downes, we played three…

12 Albums

Bret Zvacek, the Director of Jazz Studies at the Crane School of Music, asked me and several other jazz educators to: “List 12 (jazz) albums in no particular order that made a lasting impression on you, but only 1 per band.” Here’s my list: Fred Hersch – Forward Motion Jerry Bergonzi – Standard Gonz Michael Cain – Circa Maria Schneider – Evanescence John Coltrane – A Love Supreme Jim McNeely – Group Therapy Azimuth –…

New Orleans Jazz: The Music of Freedom

Two Mansfield (CT) Middle School students interviewed my UConn colleague Marvin McNeill and me for a brief video documentary they created about the origins of jazz. Their video is thoughtfully researched and includes some compelling, historical film footage and photos. They placed second in a regional film competition and went on to compete at the state level. Congratulations to Mathew Chandy and his partner, Porter! Here is their completed project: As an add-on to the topic of…

Even Michael Brecker Questioned Himself

A couple of weeks ago, I played a concert with Avery Sharpe as the bass player. I was a bit “freaked out” going in, because Avery was the longtime bassist of one of my piano idols, McCoy Tyner (John Coltrane’s pianist). I had heard Avery live several times with McCoy’s trio and even had played along with records of this group regularly during my college days. Now here I was, onstage with Avery, playing one…

How Hockey Dreams Sparked A Career In Jazz

Earl MacDonald playing the organ at a Winnipeg Jets game, circa 1987

Growing up in Canada, my childhood dreams all revolved around ice hockey. Like most Canadian boys, I aspired to play for the NHL (National Hockey League); and as serendipity would have it, my goal came true — by the age of 15! I played for the Winnipeg Jets from 1986-88, while still a high school student. But if you look up the team roster(s), you likely won’t see my name, because — I was the…