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Canadian Heritage

Kirk MacDonald


KIRK MACDONALD (tenor and alto saxophonist, flutist, piccolo-player was born October 2, 1959 in Nova Scotia, Canada. He started to play the saxophone at the age of 10, after entering a high school music program to study saxophones, clarinet, flute, music theory and composition, graduating in 1977. MacDonald moved to Toronto to attend Humber College when he was 17. He studied saxophone privately with Don Palmer, Pat LaBarbera Lee Konitz, and George Coleman, and composition with Garry Dial.

MacDonald has worked with some of the finest musicians in jazz music today. Upon moving to Toronto from his native Nova Scotia, he received his start playing in bands led by drummer Claude Ranger and bassist Dave Young. Kirk has had long associations with guitarist Lorne Lofsky and trumpeter Sam Noto. He has also worked with Sonny Greenwich, Bob Mover, Pat LaBarbera, Bernie Senensky, and visiting artists Ron McClure, Harold Mabern, and Walter Bishop Jr.

MacDonald has performed on more than 30 CDs, including appearances alongside jazz luminaries Phil Woods, Eddie Henderson, and Kenny Wheeler. Over 40 of his owncompositions have been recorded on CD. His record releases have consistently garnered honours and awards.

His recording New Beginnings received nominations for a 2001 Juno Award, as well as a Canadian Indie Award. Kirk’s previous release The Atlantic Sessions won both the 1999 Juno Award for Best Mainstream Jazz Recording, and the 1999 Jazz Report Award for Album of the Year. Kirk also picked up the 1999 Jazz Report Award for Tenor Saxophonist of the Year. His latest recordings include Songbook Vol. 1 and 2, Family Suite, and Pure and Simple.

In 2014, Kirk released Symmetry on Addo Records, featuring trumpeter Tom Harrell, pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Neil Swainson, and drummer Dennis Mackrel.

His 2014 album Vista Obscura, which features American pianist Harold Mabern alongside bassist Neil Swainson, drummer André White, and saxophonist Pat LaBarbera, won a JUNO in 2015.

Kirk MacDonald is a member of the faculty at Humber College teaching Saxophone, Ensemble Performance, Advanced Jazz Theory, and Performance Practice.

1999 - JUNO Award for ’Best Mainstream Jazz Album’ for The Atlantic Sessions
1999 – Jazz Report Award for ‘Album of the Year’ for The Atlantic Sessions
1999 – Jazz Report Award as ‘Tenor Saxophonist of the Year’
1999 – As a member of the Chris Mitchell Quintet, received the Prix de Jazz from the Montreal International Jazz Festival
2001 – JUNO Award nominee for New Beginnings
2001 – Recipient of a Canadian Indie Award for New Beginnings
2002 – Won First Place in the 4th International Jazz Soloist Competition in Monaco
2003, 2004, 2005 – National Jazz Awards nominee for “Saxophonist of the Year”
2010 - JUNO nomination for 'Contemporaryl Jazz Album' for Songbook Vol. 1
2011 - JUNO nomination for 'Traditional Jazz Album' for Songbook Vol. 2
2012 - JUNO nomination for 'Traditional Jazz Album' for Deep Shadows
2015 - JUNO Award for 'Jazz Album of the Year, by a Solo Artist' for Vista Obscura