From the Stamford Advocate “Ralph MacDonald: Longtime Stamford resident honored during final concert in July jazz series”
With family surrounding him onstage and even more admirers watching from the wings and in the audience, Grammy Award-winning percussionist, composer and songwriter Ralph MacDonald was honored with a day all to himself Wednesday, just before entertaining the crowd on the final evening of the Jazz up July music festival.
MacDonald, a 35-year Stamford resident, was emotionally overcome by the surprise honor, which came in the form of a proclamation by Mayor Michael Pavia.
“We have the greatest resources in the world and we are about to see one of them, live and in person,” Pavia said. “Ralph MacDonald, today is your day on behalf of the citizens of Stamford.”
Speaking for her family, MacDonald’s daughter, Nefra-Ann, 25, thanked all those in attendance, noting, “My dad has dedicated his life to making great songs and making people happy and that has made him happy all his life.”
It was the kind of night that gave him a boost, MacDonald said, after a year of significant health problems, including the discovery in September of lung cancer. It was the first time this year, for instance, that the 67-year-old has taken to a stage.
He and fellow Stamford resident Dennis Collins, a 19-year resident, performed a set of songs at the start of the concert, the finale of the Stamford Downtown Special Services District’s first such monthlong event, paving the way for the evening’s headliner Roberta Flack. The award-winning singer has worked with both men during her career.
“To have Ralph and Roberta both on stage is heaven to me,” said Collins, who sang several of MacDonald’s songs, including “Just The Two of Us,” which brought on more emotions during a night where tears and smiles were plentiful.
For most of MacDonald’s career, he has worn many hats, from percussionist to composer, songwriter to producer.
He has recorded or performed with some of the top names in business, including James Taylor, Billy Joel and Grover Washington Jr. MacDonald also has worked with Harry Belafonte, with whom he got his start, Paul Simon (“Graceland” and others) and many other artists. In the recent past, he has toured as a member of Jimmy Buffett’s band and has performed with the Toph-E and The Pussycats.