Earl MacDonald (born July 26, 1970), is a music arranger, composer, jazz pianist and music educator. 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 dedicated to music education, participating as a clinician, guest conductor and teacher at summer camps, in addition to his teaching at the University of Connecticut.
The UConn Chapter of the American Association of University Professors honored MacDonald with its 2006 Excellence Award for Teaching Innovation. From 1998 to 2000, MacDonald was the musical director, pianist, and arranger for the Maynard Ferguson Big Bop Nouveau band. As music director he was responsible for programming and rehearsing this world renowned ensemble. In 2002, MacDonald won the Sammy Nestico Award, for outstanding big band arranging. He has since been selected as a finalist for 2007 BMI / Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Award and the 2008 ArtEZ Composition Contest in the Netherlands.
A former participant in the BMI Jazz Composers' Workshop in New York City, MacDonald is a member of the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN). His compositions for 17-piece jazz ensemble are featured on UConn Jazz, recorded by the University of Connecticut Jazz Ensemble in 2002, as well as his latest disc, re: Visions, which was nominated for a 2011 Juno award in the Traditional Jazz Album of the Year category. His sextet, the Earl MacDonald 6 won first place in the 2004 Hartford Advocate Reader's Poll for "best jazz group." Their debut recording, Echoes In The Night received critical acclaim.
MacDonald currently serves as Musical Director and Composer-In-Residence for the Hartford Jazz Society's New Directions Ensemble. 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."
In 2011, he won Best Jazz Song at the 10th Annual Independent Music Awards for "Bad Dream".
2010 - Earl MacDonald - re: Visions - Works for Jazz Orchestra,
Death Defying Records.
recorded: November, 2008 at Bennett Studios, Englewood, NJ.
features: Tim Ries, Marc Phaneuf, Ralph Bowen, Jim Brenan, Steve Kenyon, Nick Marchione, Michael Philip Mossman, Pete Rodriguez, Joe Magnarelli, Bruce Eidem, Mark Patterson, Craig Brenan, Douglas Purviance, Pete McCann, Kenny Davis, & Jordan Perlson.
2005 - The Earl MacDonald 6 - Echoes In The Night,
features: Dick Oatts (as), Joe Magnarelli (trpt), Steve Davis (tbn), Dave Santoro (b), Tom Melito (dr).
recorded: January, 2004.
2004 - Maynard Ferguson - Live From the King Kat Theatre in Seattle. DVD.,
Paradise Media Partners.
recorded: October 2, 1998
2004 - Treblemakers - Jazz It Up!,
Treblemakers Children's Choir, directed by Dr. Mary Ellen Junda
2002 - UConn Jazz, featuring Earl MacDonald with special guest Jerry Bergonzi,
SeaBreeze Vista Records: SBV-4550
recorded: April 2002.
1999 - Michael Feinstein with the Maynard Ferguson Big Band - Big City Rhythms,
Concord Records, Inc.: CCD-4869-2
recorded: August 1999 at Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA.
1998 - Jim Brenan - Jim Brenan,
independent release: 3BCD-01
1997 - Earl MacDonald - Schroeder's Tantrum,
Radioland: RACD 10008
features: Ralph Bowen (ts), Kevin Dean (trpt), Mike Downes (b), Ted Warren (dr).
recorded: June 1996.
1994 - Kenny Barron - Wanton Spirit,
Verve 522 364-2.
Kenny Barron (piano), Charlie Haden (bass) and Roy Haynes (drums).
Earl MacDonald composed the title track, "Wanton Spirit".
recorded: February 1994.
Nominated for a Grammy award.