Stan McDonald, best known globally as a traditional jazz musician for his soaring and passionate soprano saxophone and clarinet inspired by Sidney Bechet, died on May 6. He was 85. In 1971, Stan was a founding member of the New Black Eagle Jazz Band. In 1981, Stan left the NBEJB to found the Blue Horizon Jazz Band.
He played in the junior high school band. On his way home from school he often stopped at his cousin Ted’s house to listen to a collection of 78 rpm jazz records. His first paid performances were at high school dances. As a teenager he lowered his saxophone from his bedroom window and on his way out the front door, told his parents he was going to the movies with friends. His destination, though, was the Log Cabin in Dedham, a venue for hot jazz.
Stan’s Blue Horizon played at The Sherborn Inn for 19 years until the Inn changed hands. Internationally known guests came to sit in with Stan, including several members of the Jazz Hall of Fame. He last played with his band in 2020 at Primavera Ristorante in Millis, Massachusetts, before the Covid-19 pandemic prohibited indoor music.
McDonald was listed as one of the top five soprano saxophone players in the world in a 1985 Mississippi Rag poll. In 2010, McDonald was the subject of a three-part series Dave Radlauer’s Jazz Rhythm radio series. The program won a Gabriel Award in 2011.