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Laura Macdonald

United Kingdom

Laura began playing alto saxophone at the age of sixteen at school in Prestwick, Ayrshire. Her progress was swift. Within months she was playing lead alto in the Strathclyde Youth Jazz Orchestra and gaining her first international experience, performing with SYJO at Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

In 1995, having attracted the attention of Dean of Students, Larry Bethune, on a visit to Glasgow, Laura was given a full scholarship to Berklee School of Music in Boston. She studied with Bill Pierce, formerly a saxophonist with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and a distinguished teacher, musician and bandleader, and graduated in 1997 having won the school’s annual Excellence in Performance award.

Laura was nominated for the Outstanding Performer prize at GlasgowInternational Jazz Festival in 1996 and became the first winner of the Scottish YoungJazz Musician of the Year award in 1997.

In 1998, Laura became lead alto player in the Scottish National JazzOrchestra, playing the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and Gil Evans and contributing her composition Royal Mile to the orchestra’s The Edinburgh Suite. She also occupied the lead alto chair in an all-starEllington Big Band alongside former Ellington musicians Buster Cooper and Barry Lee Hall in Switzerland in 2000.

She released her first album, Laura, on Spartacus Records in 2000. Recorded in New York with a heavyweight American trio comprising David Budway (piano),James Genus (bass) and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts (drums), it featured Laura’s own compositions alongside well-known pieces by Charles Mingus and Pat Metheny and received very favourable reviews.

Her second album ‘Awakenings’ featured Laura’s International Sextet playing music she composed for the group’s highly successful initial tour in summer 2003.

2005 saw Laura win a ‘Take Five’ initiative award funded by the Jerwood Foundation. Her next project saw her performing a new specially commissioned Octet piece at the London Jazz Festival in November.

2007 saw Laura complete a tour of Sweden and new C.D recording. October was the premier of a new large scale commission for the Martyn Bennett Trust. February 2008 saw the release of Laura Macdonald and Martina Almgren’s new album ‘Open Book’ and 2008 continued to be an important year with tours to Sweden, Germany and a unique performance as one of Ken Peplowski’s All Stars on the ‘Jazz Cruise 08’ in the Caribbean performing with Wycliffe Gordon and Claudio Roditti.

In 2009 Laura was commissioned to write a new sextet suite that was premiered at Islay Jazz Festival. 2010 saw Laura collaborating with composer Tom Bancroft on a large scale piece called ‘Band of Eden’. In 2012 Laura was commissioned by the European Jazz Network to celebrate their 25 year anniversary and 2014 saw Laura commissioned as part of the 20 for 14 Commonweatlth Games and commissioned at London Jazz Festival to write a Duet piece to coincide with the release of her fourth C.D ‘Duets’ with David Berkman.

Collaborations in 2019 include performances with Zoe Rahman and featured artist on up and coming vocalist Luca Manning’s new album as well as performances throughout the U.K and at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Islay Jazz Festivals.

Laura continues to strive forward as one of the U.K’s most prominent women in Jazz.


On the Scene with Laura Macdonald