New Directions Ensemble
Capable of capturing the intimate subtleties of a combo or packing the walloping punch of a full big band, this lean and mean 10-piece band, sponsored by the Hartford Jazz Society, performs original works and fresh, swinging arrangements that showcase the incredible richness of the Hartford jazz scene.
The Hartford Jazz Society is proud to sponsor the New Directions Jazz Ensemble, co-led by noted musician / educators Earl MacDonald and Kris Allen. This 10-piece group features seasoned veterans playing side-by-side with some of the most talented up-and-coming young musicians anywhere. The group performs and administers educational workshops throughout Connecticut. Check the upcoming concerts portion of this site for performance dates, and plan to experience this powerful band perform live, in concert!
Press & Accolades:
The readers of the Hartford Advocate selected the New Directions Ensemble as Hartford's Best Jazz Group in the 2011 Grand Band Slam readers poll.
Owen McNally of the Hartford Courant described the band and outlined its mission, stating “the fresh-sounding New Directions Ensemble taps into the rich lode of area talent, provides a vital forum for original compositions, spreads the good word about contemporary band music in its educational role, and provides a prominent public face for its sponsor, the Hartford Jazz Society. The New Directions Ensemble is set to swing in its own fresh way, generating contemporary band music that lives in the present, independent, cliché-free and untethered to conventional big band nostalgia.” (01/20/2011)
Visibility / Association with the Hartford Jazz Society:
It is hoped that an active performing ensemble under the banner of the Hartford Jazz Society will help in further cultivating an image of organizational vibrancy by giving the HJS a very prominent, public face. By design, the group’s mandate is to assist in accomplishing the aims and purposes of the HJS – especially with relation to education and audience generation. In addition to it's educational charge, the ensemble will perform at high profile events including major jazz festivals and within prominent concert venues.
Size, Scope & Personnel:
The ensemble’s instrumentation consists of 2 trumpets, 1 trombone, 1 French horn, 3 saxophones (1 alto, 1 tenor, 1 bari), piano, bass and drums. Although the instrumentation is fixed, the personnel roster will be somewhat fluid and representative of the rich diversity within the Greater Hartford jazz community. The 10-piece ensemble is comprised of seasoned professionals sitting side-by-side with “up and coming” university music students (and perhaps the occasional high school student with exceptional talent), thereby providing informal mentorship to serious younger players in the Hartford jazz scene.
Musicians who have played within the ensemble since its inception:
alto sax: Kris Allen
tenor sax: Jovan Alexandre, Wayne Escoffery, Frank Kozyra, Mark Small
bari sax: Lummie Spann, Lauren Sevian
lead trumpet: Larry Gareau, Frank Greene, Jeff Holmes, Tony Kadleck, Nick Marchione, David Stangarone
trumpet soloist: Josh Evans, Greg Hopkins, Doug Olsen
French Horn: Shelagh Abate, John Clark, Angela Haynes, Bob Hoyle, Tim Riley
trombone: Allie Bosso, James Burton III, Sara Jacovino
piano: Earl MacDonald
string bass: Gregg August, Alexandra Eckhardt, Henry Lugo, Dave Santoro
drums: Jonathan Barber, Ben Bilello, Jimmy Macbride, Bill Reynolds
Educational Outreach Component:
The above listed ensemble makeup reflects and represents the instrumental music offerings within the urban and suburban public school system - to which the HJS ensemble could potentially provide many valuable services. The following could be presented to schools as scenarios for educational visitations:
- A late afternoon master class, dinner with the students, and an evening concert at which the hosting high school band would play as “opening act”. An en masse encore could possibly be incorporated.
- A morning or afternoon concert and presentation (explaining jazz) to the entire school population.
- Performances at high school jazz festivals throughout the state. Members of the ensemble could potentially serve as adjudicators.
- Selected members of the HJS ensemble could visit high school and university ensemble rehearsals and function as clinicians.
The ensemble performs compositions and musical arrangements written primarily by Connecticut-based jazz artists who play within the ensemble. Earl MacDonald serves as the ensemble's official Composer-in-Residence. The music is artistic in nature and written for a listening audience, rather than dancers. It is intentionally written in a style which is current and relevant today, rather than in a manner which merely attempts to recreate the past. However, by design the ensemble's repertoire is not publicly inaccessible or incessantly avant-garde. The compositional approach is a natural extension and offshoot from work by iconic preceding artists such as Thad Jones, Bob Brookmeyer, Bill Holman, Slide Hampton, Jim McNeely, Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band, and the Rob McConnell.
- Appointment In Ghana - by Jackie McLean, arranged by Earl MacDonald
- Blame It On My Youth - by Oscar Levant & Edward Heyman, arranged by Earl MacDonald
- Character Defect - by Earl MacDonald
- East of the Sun - by Brooks Bowman, arranged by Earl MacDonald
- Faith Autopsy - by Earl MacDonald
- Hot 'n Ready - by Jerrold Dubyk, arranged by Earl MacDonald
- It's The Final Straw - by Sara Jacovino
- Joshua - by Victor Feldman, arranged by Earl MacDonald
- Measuring Up - by Earl MacDonald
- Miles Apart - by Earl MacDonald
- Mirror of the Mind - by Earl MacDonald
- Nutty - by Thelonious Monk, arranged by Jon Shelly
- Sordid Sort of Fellow - by Earl MacDonald
- Woody 'n You - by Dizzy Gillespie, arranged by Earl MacDonald
08/02/2010 - Debut performance. Monday Night Jazz in Hartford's Bushnell Park.
08/09/2010 - Black-eyed Sally's. Hartford, CT
01/29/2011 - Szechuan Tokyo. West Hartford, CT
04/07/2011 - Trinity College. Hartford, CT
05/04/2011 - Glastonbury High School (performance & master class). Glastonbury, CT
06/04/2011 - HJS Fund Raiser. Asylum Hill Congregational Church. Hartford, CT
08/01/2011 - Monday Night Jazz. Bushnell Park. Hartford, CT
08/15/2011 - Black-eyed Sally's. Hartford, CT
01/26/2012 - University of Connecticut. Storrs, CT
02/13/2012 - Tea Lounge. Brooklyn, NY [Size Matters Series]
08/13/2012 - Monday Night Jazz. Bushnell Park. Hartford, CT
01/29/2013 - University of Massachusetts, Amherst
04/26/2013 - Polish National Home, Hartford, CT
An interdisciplinary, collaborative work with visual artists, Deborah Dancy and Ted Efremoff was presented on January 26, 2012 at the University of Connecticut. The piece consisted of two movements: I. Beneath the Black Earth, II. On the Surface of the Water. Newly composed music corresponded to a series of changing, projected visual images.
A recording is in the works.
Leadership / Administrative Structure:
Earl MacDonald – Musical Director, Composer-in-Residence, piano
Kris Allen - Artistic Director, alto saxophone
Examples of non-profit 501 c 3 structured ensembles with similar twofold missions of performance and jazz education include the Westchester Jazz Orchestra, the SF Jazz Collective and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.