Yamano Jazz Masterclass-Jan 25, 2017

I’m looking forward to my 2nd Jazz Masterclass at Yamano Music in Ginza, Tokyo on January 25th:  What is Jazz?  What is Big Band Music?  I’m going to be working with the Tokyo University Big Band, and I will be focused on showing the young people how jazz is based on improvisation and the historical nature of this concept, along with basic concepts of the need for dedicated practice and understanding of harmony and theory.  Many times I hear young college bands in Japan playing during their “jazz” solo, the recorded version of a solo that they memorized.  I’m hoping to start reaching students all across Japan about the history of jazz music, and the importance of practice, theory and swing.   Jazz is a uniquely American art form but everyone can learn to appreciate and play jazz music whether one is a hobbyist or a professional.

Support provided by:







Yamano Jazz Clinic Flyer (click to download Flyer)

Tokyo Jazz – January 2017

Two special Jazz Gigs in Tokyo!  January 13 at B Flat Club, A Charlie Parker Celebration, tribute to the great Bird!  Alto Madness!   Hot House, Shaw Nuff, Ornithology and more. And on January 21 at Into the Blue in Machida, Tokyo, Sonny Rollins Tribute to the great trios of Sonny, tenor sax, bass and piano!  Night in Tunisia, Softly As in A Morning Sunrise, Weaver of Dreams and others!


















B Flat Club Tokyo Poster Download the flyer


Into The Blue Jazz Club Tokyo  Download the flyer

Music Lessons with Marshall McDonald

NEW!!!  STUDIO or HOME LESSONS or SKYPE LESSONS with Marshall McDonald

Learn from a pro from New York City with over 30 years of jazz playing on the road with Lionel Hampton, Paquito D’Rivera, Illinois Jacquet, Charli Persip, The Duke Ellington Orchestra and The Count Basie Orchestra.

1 Hour Lesson $100.00 / ¥11,000 
1/2 Hour Lesson $50.00 / ¥65,000 
3 Hour Lesson Pack $285.00 / ¥32,000
5 Hour Lesson Pack $450.00 / ¥48,000 Yen

Please use Contact Form to schedule lesson time or agreed meeting place
Paypal accepted

Study Jazz, jazz saxophone, classical clarinet, jazz clarinet, flute doubling,  jazz theory and harmony, Improvisation,  small group playing, Big Band playing, section playing, lead playing and learn how to swing.

Study jazz chords, scales, harmony, jazz progression theory, how to play over ii-V-I changes, bebop, post-bop, modern and funk.  Learn the Count Basie style, solo methods for all saxophones, and lead alto concepts.  Study saxophone and clarinet sound production, 10 years of classical clarinet training, I studied sound production with Professor Nestor Koval of Pittsburgh and Joe Allard techniques with protege David Tofani.

To improvise and play jazz, a player needs a firm foundation of scales, chords, harmony and theory.  I teach a 12 key practice method, with emphasis on playing over chord changes, progressions, tunes, harmonic linear approach, guide tones, leading tones, line connections, transcription study and piano study.  Big bands were originally complete with master improvisors, and much of big band dance music was made of “riffs” or jazz playing.  My years with one of the last masters of riff style Big Band playing, Mr. Lionel Hampton, gives me insight on both the virtuosity of jazz players and the sponteneity of jazz players.

I’ve studied jazz harmony with Dr. Nathan Davis, Mark Kirk (Phil Woods), George Coleman,  Dave Tofani (Joe Allard), Lee Konitz, Frank Foster, Bob Mintzer and Joe Lovano.   My conversations with both Michael Brecker and Bob Mintzer and my years of actually being “out on the road”, living the life is invaluable.

-In my over 20 year association with the original and legendary Count Basie Orchestra I have been honored to play and learn from original Basie players. Kenny Hing, Danny Turner, Cleave Eaton, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, John Williams, Mel Wanzo, Bob Ojeda, Grover Mitchell, Melton Mustafa, Dennis Mackrel, Greg Fields, Byron Stripling, Clarence Banks, Harold Jones, “Butch” Charles J. Miles, and 54 year member Bill Hughes. Amongst many others. Get it from the source!-

“Marshall McDonald is an EXCELLENT musician.  Great lead alto player and great tenor player. He is a First Class musician.  I always enjoy talking to him and listening to him play, saxophone players in the U.S., Japan and around the world should consider studying with Marshall!”  –Vincent Herring

“Marshall has that pure clarinet sound!  He has that sound of the symphony players!”  —Lionel Hampton

“Marshall has always done a GREAT job in my band!” —Charli Persip

“Marshall McDonald is the REAL DEAL.”   —Tim Price

“Marshall is the only guy I know who has played 4 of the 5 sax chairs in the Basie band, and all of the sax chairs in the Ellington band”  —Basie veteran John Williams

Is Music a Viable Career Choice?

Rant of the Day:

Is being a musician actually a viable career choice?

Jazz artists, even famous ones like recording artists Wes Montgomery and Kenny Dorham, at various times in their lives have struggled to make a decent income.   Kenny Dorham, who played with Charlie Parker, and has influenced a vast number of musicians with his playing, had to work in the post office, and then in a music store towards the end of his short life.  Kenny died at the age of 48.  Wes Montgomery, now considered one of the most influential jazz guitar players of all time had many recordings, but really came into his own on Verve with large productions with strings.  Hank Mobley is one of the MOST recorded jazz saxophonists in history, on multiple recordings with the famous Blue Note label, as leader and sideman.  Yet his life was marred by alcohol and excesses, and without proper help, he died without much money at age 55.

Once someone told me, you’re on stage, you’re performing, the audience loves you, you feel exhilarated and then when it’s over you’re back in your hotel room, drained and empty while the audience goes home on a musical high.  Not many people understand on a cosmic level, how much musicians “give” to people who enjoy their art.

But now the market is flooded with people who study jazz NOTES at colleges and music science.  Educated beyond belief with speed and technique that is unworldly, yet many are not expressing any soul or reaching people (of course amongst the herd come brilliantly gifted musicians, and I think music schools are great and the best place to study music, but I’m speaking in terms on the industry and art now) because a lot of jazz is calculated brain music.  Jazz should have three things, DANCE, MELODY and BLUES.  If you listen closely to Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Don Cherry, and Eric Dolphy, you still will hear these elements in their music at all times.  Jazz is historically a DANCE music, not a sitting and listening music.

Jazz has not been popular music since the 60’s really, and really started dying in the 50’s when it’s child, R & B came out, and led to it’s next child,  rock and roll.  R & B and rock were dance, party musics, and it squashed it’s boring parents, Jazz, like a bug.  Soon Jazz had another child.  Funk.  When the Beatles hit the US, and those first concerts happened, the promoters had NEVER seen anything like it, it changed music and the industry forever.  It made the idea of having 100-300 people at a concert obsolete, the promoters said, these guys sold out in thousands!  The Beatles had 8000 people in the Washington Coliseum in 1964, the old days were over!!

At any rate, nowadays there are so many well trained musicians, but no business industry is left, there is no recording industry or living wage jobs for the every day musician, no jingles, no radio music, no TV music jobs (like back in the 50’s and 60’s when The Wrecking Crew, with Los Angeles musicians,  Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Glen Cambell, Plas Johnson, Jackie Kelso etc played on every rock and TV show recording that was made.  Nowadays, no big record deals, no contracts, no music union gigs, teaching jobs at universities have maybe 8 new positions per year, and it is fought over.  A doctorate is the new masters degree.  Many can get a job with a masters of course, but most now want that doctorate in music.   Most of us teach other people how to play music, that’s how we financially survive, and then we send them out into the world and the cycle continues!

Let’s throw into the mix the iPhone and other devices with streaming services (where artists get checks, for example, in the amount of $1.80 for the use of their recordings), and downloads and sharing and youtube, Mp3s etc, a musician now will never sell 20 million records like Michael Jackson again.  David Sanborn has had a great career, but he said the days of him selling 1 million jazz records are finished.  Artist make 1 to 5 points on the dollar with record label deals that is they get 5 cents on a every dollar sold.  Ray Charles made a great deal like that AND he said I want to OWN my music, recordings which was UNHEARD OF PREVIOUSLY.  The label broke and said yes.  Of course he was Ray Charles and we are not.

Most artists for Motown became broke, no money, no good contracts, no residuals, that’s the reason they worked the rest of their life.  One artist, vocalist Darlene Love had Number one hit records, and ended up working as a maid!  “Darlene also vividly recalls the period in her life when she disappeared from the music scene and fell on hard times. One day, while working as a maid in Beverly Hills, she heard herself on the radio and vowed to make a comeback, and so she has, with appearances in all four Lethal Weapon movies, starring roles on Broadway and headlining concert tours worldwide.”   Maybe you remember seeing her on The David Letterman Show, he loved her voice so much he put her on his show every December singing her song, “Christmas”. (I miss that nowadays!)

David Sanborn: let’s say he sold a million records back in 1981, he got a dollar per record-that’s a million dollars for him, but now even Sanborn can’t do that now.  He lives off his residuals and tours with his band makes him money.  And he is one the THE most important pop jazz artists of history.

So some folks are using Youtube to make themselves famous, and now a lot musicians are independent, using their own money to record, promote, make a website etc.  Unheard of in the past.  The artist had all of this paid for by the record company before.  That’s over,  except for those who make a “big break”.  TV shows make it appear that anyone can get lucky and make a big “break”, but that is TV fantasy.  Most artists who it seemed like they got “discovered” and had “instant success” really had years of preparation and practice getting to that one point.  Including the Beatles themselves!

Well, things might continue to get worse, because now people can’t tell that the music they hear is more watered down, and not as relevant as it was before.  A lot of pop music is manufactured in the studio to make money as a “hit”, with someone singing  with a “look”,  and has nothing to do with making a relevant piece of music.  Snarky Puppy is a good, funky band, but so many people are not aware of the path to that led to Snarky Puppy via Tower of Power, James Brown, Parliament, The Brothers Johnson, The Brecker Brothers, Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis’s Electric band etc etc.   Knowing music history makes it more interesting and understandable.

Chicago, Earth wind and Fire, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Yes, Sly and The Family Stone, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Genesis, Lionel Richie–once people had to sit at the piano or with a guitar in their hand and learn chords and write songs, now you have artificial musicians using computers and stuff to “write “ music.  Melody. What happened to that novel idea.  Beatles.  Carole King.  Dolly Parton.  Holland-Dozier-Holland.  Song writers.  Where is the music now?  And where is the concept that we as a society love music so much, that we will pay a musician or artist a living wage?  Well, even Mozart died poor.

Music is one of the most important aspects of any great civilization and music historically has been used for Dancing, Singing, God and Communication.   It’s an embarrassment that artists have such a difficult time making a decent wage.

Me: “I’m a musician……”  Reply: “Yes, but what do you really do, what’s your job?”

Rant off.