Described as “a magical, musical alchemist of hip hybrids” (Hartford Courant) and “a major force in the world of jazz composition” (Dan Bilawsky, AllAboutJazz.com), MacDonald’s inexhaustible commitment to the jazz art form reveals itself in his performing, composing and teaching.
All seven of MacDonald’s albums differ in instrumentation — ranging from a quartet comprised of cello, saxophone, piano & percussion to a full 17-piece jazz big band. This variance speaks to MacDonald’s restless artistic spirit, unquenchable inquisitiveness and his desire to continue stretching himself musically. Such experimentation led one reviewer to speculate vis-à-vis “. . . an attempt to create a hybrid jazz form” (JazzReview.com). Each project leaves an indelible impression, garnering critical acclaim and accolades: two Independent Music Awards (for Jazz Song and Jazz Producer of the Year) and two JUNO nominations for jazz album of the year.
As a composer, MacDonald embraces the roles of social commentator and provocateur, broaching consequential subject matter in his music. In addition to composing music for his own ensembles and recording projects, MacDonald often receives commissions to write pieces for jazz big bands. Praised for his creative compositional voice, MacDonald won the Sammy Nestico Award, sponsored by the Airmen of Note, was a finalist for Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Award (during his affiliation with the BMI Jazz Composer’s Workshop in New York City) and twice he appeared as a finalist for the ArtEZ Composition Contest in the Netherlands. His compositions for 17-piece jazz orchestra have been performed by professional and university- based ensembles across North America.
Press Quotes, listed by album:
Open Borders (2017)
The leader’s gifts with the pen are apparent, as the sound of ten can balloon to the sonic
proportions of twenty or fold inward to sound like a small combo.
~ Dan Bilawsky, All-About-Jazz
Diversity, dynamism, and equilibrium are fundamental aspects in Earl MacDonald’s music-
making. These eleven stylishly orchestrated pieces are a pure reflection of his musical
~ Filipe Freitas, JazzTrail.net
Man oh man, do these arrangements crackle with spirit! From the high-flying 'Dig In Buddy' to
the exhilarating Latin flavors 'Dolphy Dance,' MacDonald’s prodigious gifts as an arranger shine.
~ Mike Jurkovic, All-About-Jazz
This is inspired playing that really delivers the goods well
Willing to teach
Intermediate to advanced
Earl MacDonald teaches at the University of Connecticut.
Although he is not currently accepting private students outside of
UConn, he has posted several free, online jazz piano and
improvisation lessons on his website.
MacDonald has enjoyed guest conducting opportunities with a wide range
of ensembles including the U.S.A.F. Airmen of Note, the BMI-New York
Jazz Orchestra, the UConn Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra,
university jazz ensembles at North Texas, Northern Illinois, Rutgers, the
University of Manitoba, and Amherst College, as well as regional high
school honor ensembles throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut, and
the MENC All-Eastern Jazz Ensemble.
He works as an adjudicator and clinician at educational jazz festivals, in-
service conferences, and summer camps across Canada and the United