Inside the Jazz Mind, with Marshall McDonald of the Count Basie Orchestra

New musicality video:

Today we have the distinct pleasure to talk with someone who we think it’s fair to say is one of the top jazz musicians in the world today and who has played with and learned from some of the true masters: Marshall McDonald.

Marshall has been playing for 20 years with the legendary Count Basie Orchestra, and currently plays lead alto sax in that band. He’s also performed in the Duke Ellington Orchestra and with Lionel Hampton and Paquito D’Rivera.

We’ll admit that we were a bit nervous going into this interview. Marshall has had an amazingly impressive career, and although we’re jazz fans we’re not jazz musicians ourselves – and we know that jazz cats often have an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz records, jazz history and the jazz musicians behind it all. And Marshall’s certainly no exception! But fortunately he is also the most kind and humble guy and it was an absolute pleasure to chat with him – and he certainly didn’t hold back on the amazing stories and insights on teaching and learning jazz – and music in general.

One might assume that a world-leading alto sax player would talk mostly about the specifics of jazz and sax – but as you’ll hear, Marshall’s got a breadth of wisdom and insight that cuts right across music itself. There is a ton in here for any musician to learn from.

In this conversation we talk about:

– Talent, and how he and the amazing musicians he’s worked with and learned from think about talent

– We ask him about learning to improvise, and the balance of preparation versus spontaneity to improvise in a way that moves the listener

– And he helps Christopher shrug off a grudge he’s been harbouring for 20 years and realise some advice that he got back then was actually pretty solid!

Marshall’s a natural story-teller, so this is a really fantastic interview – and we take no credit for that! He’s also a skillful educator, offering private lessons online and giving masterclasses, so he really knows how to explain what he does. Between the stories and the insights, we know you’re going to love this one.

Listen to the episode:

Links and Resources

Marshall McDonald’s website :

Study with Marshall McDonald – all levels of saxophones, clarinet, and flute:

Contact Marshall McDonald :

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Inside the Jazz Mind, with Marshall McDonald of the Count Basie Orchestra