Picking up his first saxophone in 5th grade, Stuart MacDonald made the most of the Seattle school system's jazz educators. Today, working on his Masters in jazz studies at the University of Washington, his education continues even as he teaches younger players a thing or two on the bandstand.
Plenty of work as a sideman has honed MacDonald's playing to a fine point, his ability to play in reggae and funk settings don't seem to distract from his own musical point of view. He's a creative player in the mold of late-era John Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders, "I like spiritual jazz" he told me before the set.
MacDonald uses melody as a platform to launch into improvisation and to initiate musical communication between his fellow musicians. He's currently working on a more intimate dialog, a duets project with saxophone and bass.
Live in our studios, MacDonald led a talented quartet with the wonderful Dawn Clement on piano, herself a teacher at Cornish College and two of our city's most talented young jazz students.
High school senior Ben Feldman is a frequent visitor to the KNKX studios, his supporting rhythm continues to be as impressive as his solo work. Drummer Xavier Lecouturier is completing his studies at Cornish this year and was well-featured as drummer and composer.
Lecouturier's "Waiting" started the session, a hypnotic piece allowing plenty of solo opportunities. MacDonald's strong yet tender tone on his tenor sax was in fine form, setting the stage for a pair of standard interpretations to follow.
Charlie Parker's iconic "Confirmation" and a mix of Ellington classics were starting points for improvisation, each band member intensely focused on the path blazed by their leader. They were listening even more closely than our rapt studio audience.