Ian McDonald is an English multi-instrumental musician, best known as a founder member of progressive rock band King Crimson, formed in 1969, and of the hard rock band Foreigner in 1976. He is well known as a rock session musician, predominantly as a saxophonist. He also plays keyboards, flute, vibraphone and guitar.
Born in Osterley, Middlesex, McDonald served five years in the British Army as a bandsman. His music talent ranged from classical orchestra to dance bands to rock. In 1969, he was in King Crimson's initial line up, which recorded their first album In the Court of the Crimson King. McDonald and drummer Michael Giles departed and formed a spin-off group that released one album titled McDonald and Giles. He reappeared in King Crimson in 1974 and intended to rejoin the band as a full member but did not get the opportunity to do so given Fripp's decision to split the band.
He became a founding member of the band Foreigner in 1976, for whom he played guitar as well as his woodwinds and keyboards. He has been a session musician and appeared in the recording of the hit single "Get It On (Bang a Gong)" by T. Rex, and recordings by Linda Lewis, Christine Harwood amongst others. He also has some production credits to his name, including albums by Fruupp, Darryl Way's Wolf and Fireballet. In 1999, he released a solo album, Drivers Eyes.
In 1997, the release of the King Crimson four CD set Epitaph, consisting of rare live recordings of the 1969 version of King Crimson, renewed interest in the early Crimson material. Out of that interest, the 21st Century Schizoid Band was formed in 2002 and several tours and live albums have followed. The band includes former King Crimson members Michael Giles (drums and percussion), Peter Giles (bass), McDonald (sax, flute, keyboards), Mel Collins (alto/tenor sax, flute, keyboards) and also Jakko Jakszyk from Level 42 on guitar and lead vocals. After the first tour Michael Giles was replaced with another former King Crimson drummer Ian Wallace, who has since died.
McDonald has contributed saxophone and flute to several tracks on Judy Dyble's 2009 release, Talking With Strangers. The album sees McDonald reunited with former King Crimson bandmate Robert Fripp on the 20-minute "Harpsong".
On 28 July 2009, McDonald made a guest appearance with Asia during their opening set for Yes at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Philadelphia. McDonald played flute, clarinet, saxophone and sang backing vocals for "In the Court of the Crimson King" and also returned for the encore to sing backing vocals for "Heat of the Moment". His guest appearance on "In the Court of the Crimson King" is featured as a bonus track on Asia's 2011 DVD release, "Spirit of the Night: Live".
In 2011, the ever-eclectic McDonald began working with long-time neighbour Lynnea Benson and her husband Ted Zurkowski, directors of New York City's Frog and Peach Theatre Company, which specialises in off-Broadway productions and readings of Shakespearean plays. In collaboration with Zurkowski, McDonald composed and performed guitar and piano music to accompany select Frog and Peach Shakespearean productions and readings: Julius Caesar, Two Gentleman of Verona, Hamlet, A Midsummer Nights Dream, King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew and Measure for Measure.
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