When you speak of Cape Breton’s Music scene, the Celtic style is that with which we are most familiar. Sure we have the best in the field as far as the barras, Rankins, Natalies and Ashleys go, but what about the other styles of music played on the island? What is most often overlooked, and even unknown about our music is that it exists in all dimensions, even jazz. And in this world, one of the most nationally recognized musicians is none other than our own Kirk MacDonald.
Kirk has spent his lifetime involved with music; from jamming as a teenager at afternoon sock-hops with the Sensational Sound to becoming an accomplished tenor sax player performing with the top musicians throughout the country. His career in music has taken him away from the small coal town of New Waterford to the big city of Toronto, where he juggles duties as a professor at the University of Toronto and nightly gigs with other artists in the area.
Influenced by the likes of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, he now draws his inspiration from the musicians he works with. Over the past few years, his work has ended up on several recordings. He has recorded with Bill King and the Jazz Report All Stars—a collaboration of well-known musicians from the Toronto area. As well he has worked with Liberty Silver on an album entitled Live in Sessions. The band is made up of MacDonald and three others from metro. These are just a few of the projects he’s been involved with.
This past year, Kirk has released his second full-length CD, entitled Reminiscence, on Counterpoint Records. This disc is available throughout Cape Breton and is rapidly drawing the attention of the nation—attention which has earned him an East Coast Music Award nomination for Jazz Artist of the Year.
Being a first-time ECMA nominee, Kirk was elated at the prestigious nod as well as at seeing the smaller jazz market receiving some well-deserved recognition. As for the awards night itself he hopes he will get down for the awards show, though touring commitments may keep him elsewhere. He adds, “They [ECMA] are a great thing. There is a wealth of talent from the east of various styles and the awards are a good opportunity to celebrate the artists of the area.” Artists MacDonald has taken an interest in helping to develop, trekking back to the coast this past year to perform concerts and clinics at various high schools throughout the Maritimes.
In closing our brief conversation, I asked Kirk what his career highlight would be. “Music is more of a highlight than any one situation or time, just getting out and jamming with great players each and every night.” And that’s what it’s all about.