2008 Composer’s Guild Competition

John was a triple winner in the 2008 Composer’s Guild music composition contest--taking first place in the solo piano category with his 4th piano sonata, first place in the arranger's category for his arrangement of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” for chamber orchestra and first place in the children’s music category. He also took third place in the jazz category for his piece “Shape-shifter #6” for jazz quartet, from the album "Patterns, Circles and Shapes".

2005 Composer’s Guild Competition

John took first place in the jazz/new age/popular category of the 2005 Composer’s Guild composition competition for his piece “Blue Horse Opus” an eight minute tour de force solo vocal piece with jazz quartet backing.
John wrote the words and music.

Some of the judges’ comments: “A big piece, very involved---it has a Stan Kenton feel, which is a real compliment, and the funk/bop alternate style creates a very fresh combination”.
-“It is almost too much music”!
-“This piece should be out on the market”!

2004 Composers Guild Competition

John took the first place prize in the 2004 Composers Guild Composition competition in the solo piano category for his Piano Sonata in Three Movements.

He also won third place in the jazz/popuplar category for his jazz/pop flavored song
"Dream on People", sung by Bay area songstress Karen Monte.


John took second place in the solo piano category of the 2003 Composer's Guild Composition competition for his suite of solo piano pieces entitled Seven Sentiments for solo piano . These are seven of 24 solo pieces for piano that John completed in 2003. He also won fourth place in the same category for his Five Moods in Miniature.


John was a double winner in the 2002 Composers Guild Competition, an international composers competition. He took first place in the Jazz Category with a solo piano work entitled Five Forays into Classijazz. These pieces are a blend of classical and jazz influences. He also took second place in the Choral Category for his composition Peace Circle, scored for ten voices. This piece cycles through all twelve keys, beginning with Gregorian chant, working its way through twelve successive periods of musical history, ending with late twentieth century contemporary.

Portland Songwriter’s Association Songwriting Contest

John recently won the Portland Songwriter's Association Best Instrumental of the Year award for his song, Tripura's Walk. You can find this song on his album Fractal BlueTripura's Walk is a good example of John's ability to use his melodic and harmonic gifts in an original but still accessible fashion.



war is an avalanche 

Museum's Concert Year Ends on a Jazzy High Note

Bach With A Twist


Another winner from the Chicken Coup, October 20, 2006 

John Mackay is an award winning jazz composer and an outstanding B-3 player. The foundation of this program is the classic B-3 organ/guitar/drums trio, with guests on several tracks playing sax and flugelhorn. Everyone sounds great, the improvisations are excellent, the compositions are strong, intonation and recorded sound are both fine throughout. This is a solid, jazzy funky organ trio effort carrying forward the legacy of Jimmy Smith and Groove Holmes. Chicken Coup was started by Tony Monaco, I believe, and offers B-3 jazz. If you have not sampled any of the Chicken Coup offerings, you owe it to yourself to try an example, ans this is a good place to start. If you enjoy B-3 jazz in this tradition, I expect you will enjoy this as I did. Highly recommended!

Review written by Duncan Clark (Pittsburgh, PA) 

For Wayne and Herbie

Jazz Now,
February 2003

Messrs. Shorter and Hancock should be pleased with this new CD dedicated to them. The John Mackay Trio's openness to new interpretations — as opposed to literal reconstruction of famous charts — yields performances that consistently rise above the level of mere tribute. If any recording symbolizes the creative spirit of the San Francisco Bay Area music scene, this is it. 

The unexpected rhythmic variations on Fee-Fi-Fo-FumCantaloupe IslandBlack Nile, and other themes set this group apart from the competition. Footprints Fantasy is a multi-leveled, tour-de-force solo performance by the leader, complete with percussive clusters. And Mackay's poly-modal piece, Her Way, reveals an accomplished composer deserving much wider recognition.

James D. Armstrong, Jr.

Peaced Heart and Often Grin

All Music Guide website,
May 16, 2001
AMG Rating *****

[Peaced heart and Often Grin] where the pianist [John Mackay] shows a penchant for vigorous swinging. He also has a way of slotting in unusual chord combinations, keeping everyone on their toes. Bye Bye Blackbird is the vehicle for group fun and games as they give this oft-played standard a new, bright musical paint job. Another standard, You and the Night and the Music, is the tool for Mackay's improvisational wizardry. No matter the tempo . . . Mackay establishes himself as an excellent pianist. . . . In the meantime, it's recommended that this album be added to the buy list.

Dave Nathan

Cadence magazine,
July 2000

Spiritual love is the recessed theme of Mackay's piano trio recording on Peaced Heart and Often Grin. The music, whether familiar fare or original compositions, has a tender heart and is played with sensitivity and affection. Mackay prefers to use a less than percussive touch on the keys, which adds delicacy to the songs as he and his two trios promote peace in the world through music. He accentuates the upper end of the keyboard, which helps to further rid the music of melancholic traits. As an improviser, Mackay is highly original and energetic. He spins webs of spontaneous lines around the tune base, eschewing darkness for the brighter view of the world. On Psychotic Dance Moves, however, Mackay changes gears slightly by adding synthesized sounds into the regular routine. The diversion is short-lived, and he returns quickly to improvised piano turf. 

The two separate bass/drum combinations yield noticeable differences in the music. Zerlin on either acoustical or electric bass and Distel on drums follow the formula established by Mackay by playing with sensitivity behind him. They provide the color and shading that gives the music its defined character. When Krebs and Aragon replace them on five of the ten selections, the rhythm has a bouncy, buoyant sound as well as a somewhat mechanical bent. Krebs uses the electric bass exclusively, which gives the music an upbeat and walking lift, and Aragon is more demonstrative and up front in his concept of drumming. In either case, Mackay exhibits his capacity for getting and holding your attention with his improvising skills while he gingerly skates over the keys with airy finesse. His playing has quality and his product has appeal.

Frank Rubolino

Jerry L. Atkins,
KTXK-FM Radio (Texas),
February 2000

A nice surprise. I held back listening to this one for no particular reason but maybe because I wasn't familiar with all of the music. Now, I've found that it's something I'm coming back to because of the originals by John. A very pleasing release.

Jerry L. Atkins

Jazz Now,
March 2000

This wonderfully expressive session from Novato, California based pianist John Mackay is evidence that the future of the Jazz piano trio is secure. Mackay is a thoughtful, introspective colorist who carefully paces his improvisations to logical and peaceful resolutions. There's nothing bombastic about this musical aesthetic. . . . a suite of highly cohesive solos, each bearing a marked focal point or climax. A singing, orchestral approach to the piano is favored throughout, and the leader wisely recognizes the value of simplicity in melodic development. 

One is not likely to hear more personal interpretations of the familiar standards, Smile, Bye Bye Blackbird, and You and the Night and the Music, each of which is masterfully reharmonized. Mackay's challenging Psychotic Dance Moves is a gem, a fascinating exploration of polyrhythms and group dynamics. 

Peaced Heart and Often Grin is a refreshing example of musical form at the service of content.

James D. Armstrong Jr.