Glenn McDonald (musician)

Glenn McDonald (musician)

William Glenn McDonald (August 29, 1939December 16, 1998) was a Canadian jazz saxophonist.

Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, McDonald became rebellious as a teen and ended up in a reform school run by the Christian Brothers of Ireland. At the age of fourteen, he discovered the saxophone and Charlie Parker. He eventually moved to Toronto, and became a regular on Canada’s jazz scene from the 1960s through the 1980s.

McDonald migrated to Toronto and joined the Soul Searchers – a well-known R&B band in Canada - in 1969. It was fronted by Dianne Brooks and Eric Mercury, with Terry Logan on guitar, William “Smitty” Smith on organ, and Eric “Mouse” Johnson on drums. Glenn replaced Steve Kennedy on saxophone. Later, Glenn teamed up with arranger Ray Secora and Jim Heineman to form a film soundtrack production company. The company recorded four compositions by Smitty Smith. Engineered by Phil Sheridan, these sessions included several horn players that would eventually become the Boss Brass, as well as string players from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The plan was for the label to become Canada’s answer to Motown, and the recordings from these sessions are classics, with Glenn the featured soloist on the only instrumental. Unfortunately, these recordings ended up in litigation and were never released.

This setback led Glenn to move to Killaloe, ON. The year was 1970. Glenn and Jim Heineman formed The Killaloe Mountain Band. It was here that the important relationship between Glenn and guitarist Lenny Breau began, with Lenny a frequent visitor. There exist several unpublished recordings with Glenn and Lenny on the bandstand together. In his later life, Glenn would negotiate with guitarist Randy Bachman to sell these recordings, but Glenn died before a deal could be reached.

In 1980, Glenn returned to Toronto. John T. Davis and Jim Heineman collaborated with vocalist Jeanette Brantly to produce a CBC Easter gospel special. The idea was to team up the major singers in the city, including Liberty Silver, Ron Smalls, Carlene Davis, Jackie Richardson, Wayne St. John, Bobby Sherrin, Erin Malone, and others. Glenn played a rendition of Lover Man, captured on video forever.

Many of Glenn’s classic solos were never recorded and only exist in the memory of those who were present. Some of his most important performances took place at George’s Spaghetti House in Toronto, where he fronted a quartet consisting of Gary Williamson on piano, Bob McLaren on drums, and Dave Fields on bass. Glenn does appear on recordings with Claude Ranger, Demo Cates, Michel Donato, Reg Schwagger, David and Rob Piltch, Don Thomson, Terry Clark, P.J. Perry, Jerry Fuller, Neil Swainson, Steve Wallace, Bobby Brough, Lionel Williams, Greg Pilo, Sonny Greenwich, and many others.

Glenn’s influences included: Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, and Dexter Gordon.

Glenn battled with alcoholism and drug addiction for most of his life, and finally recovered in 1994 through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. He spent the final years of his life sober and working directly with other alcohol and drug addicts. Glenn succumbed to cancer in 1998.


cite book|last=Neil|first=Al|title=Changes|year=1989|publisher=Nightwood Editions, Canada|isbn=0889710651
[ The Sound Gallery]
[ Encyclopedia of Music in Canada]

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