Best Jazz: Earl MacDonald & the Hartford Jazz Society's New Directions Ensemble

The UConn professor is back in the Best Jazz spot, repeating his 2004 win in this same category. Back then, it was with his sextet; now it's with a group he's specifically assembled to help local institutions. According to MacDonald, the Hartford jazz scene "is kind of broken down into various factions. You've got the Hartt School of music, and you've got UConn, and the two rarely meet. And you've got younger musicians and older musicians." The New Directions Ensemble throws all those elements into the pot, creating cross-pollination and mentorship opportunities, all while promoting the Hartford Jazz Society's aims and goals.