Raymond MacDonald is a saxophonist, composer and academic whose work explores the boundaries and ambiguities between what is conventionally seen as improvisation and composition. Much of his recent performing work has been in collaborative free improvisation contexts, however his roots in jazz and pop music are always evident in his playing and writing. MacDonald collaborates widely and has worked with visual artists, dancers, writers and filmmakers and has produced music for film, television, theatre and the concert hall.
MacDonald has worked internationally with many of the current pioneers in avant-garde music including the sublime US pianist Marilyn Crispell, German drummer Günter ‘Baby’ Sommer, David Byrne, Damo Suzuki from Can, Nurse with Wound, German trumpeter Axel Dorner, US trombonist and educator George Lewis, Japanese Percussionsist Tatsuya Nakatani, US percussionist Michael Zerang, US cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm. His ambitious International Big Band features the virtuosic Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, Australians Alistair Spence and Toby Hall and Lloyd Swanton from The Necks and exSonic Youth guitarist Jim O’Rourke among others and in 2010 released, to critical acclaim, Buddy, his first CD on the French label Textile
“Music this articulate is rare in any style of music." (Jazz Wise)
“An unqualified Success” (The Wire).
Buddy was also named in top CDs of year in Wire magazine, Jazzwise and All about Jazz.
MacDonald has collaborated extensively with the leading lights of the UK avant-garde scene including Evan Parker, Fred Frith, Keith Tippett, Barry Guy, Harry Beckett, Keith Rowe, Lol Coxill, Maggie Nicols, Steve Noble, Steve Beresford, London Improvisers Orchestra and Future Pilot AKA. He co-leads the imaginative George Burt-Raymond MacDonald Quartet (“leading contemporary Jazz” The Guardian) and is a key player in the formidable musical force that is the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra (GIO) which runs an annual programme of events at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow and has been described as the ‘Premier league of the European improvisation scene.’ (Sudeutsche Zeitung)
MacDonald has toured and broadcast worldwide and his recorded output, which amounts to over 50 releases can be found on a number of international labels including: FMR (UK) | Leo (UK) | Textile (France) | Thrill Jockey (USA) | Matinee (USA) | Clean Feed (Portugal) | Creative Sources (Portugal) | nujazzeurope (Scotland) | Aufgeladen und Bereit (Germany), as well as his own label Iorram, which he runs with fellow GIO members, Neil Davidson and Una MacGlone.
A former Sunday Herald Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year and a participant in Time Out: Jazz CPD Scotland – a professional development programme for creative jazz musicians living in Scotland, produced by Serious on behalf of the Scottish Arts Council. In early 2010 MacDonald was the recipient of a prestigious Creative Scotland Vital Spark Award. This allowed him to develop an innovative collaborative project with visual artist Martin Boyce and film director David MacKenzie that experiments with new forms of performative work that will adapt to gallery, concert hall and cinema spaces and was be premiered at the Tramway in Glasgow, in February and October 2012.
MacDonald has extensive experience in cross media collaboration and has worked with writers, visual artists, dancers and filmmakers. He collaborated with David Byrne on David MacKenzie’s film Young Adam and produce orginal music for Nicloas Windin film Valhalla Rising. He was commissioned to provide music for Martin Boyce’s groundbreaking exhibition Our love is like the Flowers, the Rain, the Sea and the Hours at Glasgow’s Tramway and has also worked with artists Christine Borland on an installation project in Porto, Portugal and 2006 Turner Prize winner Simon Starling where he wrote and performance a new piece for the Opening of The Dundee Centre of contemporary Art. He has been commissioned by BBC Radio 3′s Between the Ears and created a work for BMacD5, Martin Boyce and Canadian writer Douglas Copland. Other collaborations include working with Scottish Television to produce a number of sound tracks for Taggert and he wrote and recorded a soundtrack for the National Theatre of Romania production of Children of a lesser God.
In addition to performing and composing Raymond MacDonald runs workshops and lecturers internationally on issues relating to composition, improvisation, musical education and musical communication. He is a patron of Drake Music Scotland, was the artistic director of Sounds of Progress, an organisation specialising in working with people with special needs and is currently involved in running Polyphony a music project providing access to musical activities for individuals with mental health problems.
He currently leads the Glasgow Caledonian Music Psychology Research Group and has co-edited two books (Musical Identities and Musical Communication) and is working on Music Health & Wellbeing and Musical Imaginations – all published by Oxford University Press. MacDonald is also the Editor of the Journal Psychology of Music and Associate Editor for The International Journal of Music Education, Jazz Research Journal and Research Studies in Music Education.