Concert Reviews



Jazz Showcase: Mixed Bag highlights student talent
The Daily Campus
By Lauren Brown
Feb. 23, 2018

“C.A.L.F., directed by Earl MacDonald, gave an incredibly interesting performance. Their first arrangement, a medley of Nat Cole, featured a hauntingly beautiful cello and trumpet duet. Their second performance also stood out, as it was a four-movement, improvised suite, which meant the entire song was improvised by the musicians. Whichever instrument started the movement would set the tone, prompting two of the other members of C.A.L.F. to chime in and try to match their improvisation.”

the Vermont Journal



By Karen Engdahl
The Vermont Journal
Feb. 5, 2018

“His 18-member ensemble packed a big musical punch with their four concert selections, including “Cirrus,” one of MacDonald’s own compositions.”

Daily Campus

By: Brea Patterson, Campus Correspondent
The Daily Campus
Re: Oct. 11, 2013 performance at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, Storrs, CT

Published: October 13, 2013

UConn professor releases CD with an intimate crowd

Friday at 8 p.m., Earl MacDonald and The Creative Opportunity Workshop performed a concert at Jorgensen to celebrate their latest CD release. Although no more than 50 attended, those who came were supporters of the group. Those that came enjoyed indulging in a large cake celebrating the group’s success, which was located at Jorgensen’s entrance.

Earl MacDonald, University of Connecticut’s Director of Jazz Studies, appeared to be happy with the turnout. He frequently joked with audience members and brought up relationships with various colleagues in attendance. As the music began to play, it became apparent that MacDonald enjoys a unique and alternative style. Although many of his songs were based on jazz classics, others were much more experimental. During one particularly interesting tune, MacDonald would pause to pluck at the strings inside of his piano or crow aloud. Many of his songs were accompanied by images, drawings and videos playing on the screen behind the group. The lively backdrop was frequently as playful as it was serious, designed to accompany each particular song and its tone. His highly talented band, Christopher Hoffman on the cello, Kris Allen on the saxophone and Rogerio Boccato on percussion, were equally entertaining.

The group’s most recent album entitled “Mirror of the Mind” will be officially released on Oct. 15. The concert included a sampling of all the band’s latest hits. The song after which the album is named “Mirror of the Mind” was melodic and sentimental. Its performance included an image of a mountain and the reflection of two people leaving a shore on a boat. The music and the imagery were heavy and emotional, allowing the performance to move the audience more deeply.

MacDonald won the Sammy Nestico Award for outstanding big band arrangement and his previous CD “Re:Visions – Works for Jazz Orchestras” received a Canadian Juno Award Nomination for Traditional Jazz Album of the Year. Although “Mirror of the Mind” has yet to be released, it is certain that MacDonald and the C.O.W’s sound will remain intriguing and find further appreciation.

Hartford Courant

By: Chuck Obuchowski
The Hartford Courant, August 3, 2010

re: August 2, 2010 debut performance of the Hartford Jazz Society’s New Directions Ensemble
“Nearly two years ago, saxophonist Kris Allen and pianist Earl MacDonald began discussing the concept of a Connecticut repertory jazz group that could engage in educational outreach and public performances. Monday’s unveiling of the New Directions Jazz Ensemble, formed with support from the Hartford Jazz Society, offered an exciting glimpse into a promising musical future. MacDonald, billed as composer in residence, led a 10-piece group featuring area college students, recent grads, professionals and instructors. His solid arrangements of standards like “East of the Sun” and “Blame It on My Youth” were juxtaposed with strong original material. “Smoke and Mirrors,” a recent MacDonald composition, stood out for its ability to convey complex 12-tone concepts in a deceptively simple manner. The piece also highlighted two of the band’s powerful brass section: French horn player Bob Hoyle and trumpeter Josh Evans.”


“MacDonald is an excellent pianist and his soloing and comping were both top-notch.”

Chris Smith
The Winnipeg Free Press
re: May 11, 2001 Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra concert, featuring Earl MacDonald



“MacDonald had people shaking their heads in amazement with some of his solos.”

Cam Fuller
The Star Phoenix, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan;
re: June 23, 1998 SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival concert with Vivianne Cardinal and P.J. Perry.


“The affirmative festival vote was pianist Earl MacDonald opening for (Joshua) Redman.”

Randal McIlroy
Coda Magazine
re: June 1994 Jazz Winnipeg Festival concert
Published: November, 1994

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