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Donny McCaslin: Casting For Gravity (2012)

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Donny McCaslin: Casting For Gravity How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

If saxophonist Donny McCaslin stuck a toe into the ocean of electric jazz with his previous album Perpetual Motion (Greenleaf, 2010), then with Casting For Gravity he dives headfirst into the sea. But don't worry, with his musical dexterity and adeptness on horn, he is in no danger of sinking. In fact, he takes to these waters like a thirsty horse.

The saxophonist of choice for the band leaders including trumpeter Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas
b.1963
trumpet
, singer Kate McGarry
Kate McGarry
Kate McGarry

vocalist
, and composers/arrangers Ryan Truesdell
Ryan Truesdell
Ryan Truesdell

composer/conductor
, and Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider

band/orchestra
, McCaslin grew up in California listening to fusion, pop, and bands like Tower Of Power that infused R&B and funk into their jazz horn section. For awhile in the 1990s, he played in a revived version of vibraphonist Mike Mainieri
Mike Mainieri
Mike Mainieri
b.1938
vibraphone
's Steps Ahead.

Steps Ahead, with its various lineups that included saxophonist Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
1949 - 2007
sax, tenor
, keyboardist Don Grolnick
Don Grolnick
Don Grolnick
1947 - 1996
piano
and drummers Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
b.1954
drums
and Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
b.1945
drums
, is the touchstone for this recording. That is, a time when fusion was not a dirty word.

The saxophonist surrounds himself with talent here, starting with producer/saxophonist David Binney
David Binney
David Binney
b.1961
saxophone
, a fellow saxophonist and former member of the 1990s collective Lan Xang, with McCaslin. The album opens with the oxymoronic "Stadium Jazz," a melodic burner with ever- changing rhythms, and finds drummer Mark Guiliana powering all things ablaze. The pair feed off each other throughout, trading rounds on "Tension," as electric bassist Tim Lefebvre tinkers in thunder-making.

The inspiration here is both the jazz fusion of Weather Report
Weather Report
Weather Report

band/orchestra
and the electronica of bands like Aphex Twin and Boards Of Canada, whose song, "Alpha And Omega," gets covered here, with keyboardist Jason Lindner's spooky synths and McCaslin's processed, echo-y effects. As the song progresses the electronics threaten and bully the affair, all the while McCaslin Enduring on a short, four-minute song that begs for a longer live production.

Like jazz giant Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
, McCaslin's sound suffers no ill effects of fusion, nor is he compromised by the genre. He goes toe-to-toe with the electric funk on "Says Who" and sails above the changes on the tour de force "Praia Grande." On the thoughtful closer "Henry," a softer tone is called, with Linder on electric piano and McCaslin delivering his trademark runs.

Track Listing: Stadium Jazz; Says Who; Losing Track Of Daytime; Alpha And Omega; Tension; Praia Grande; Love Song For An Echo; Casting For Gravity; Bend; Henry.

Personnel: Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone; Jason Lindner: electric piano, acoustic piano, synthesizers; Tim Lefebvre: electric bass; Mark Guiliana: drums.

Record Label: Greenleaf Music

Style: Modern Jazz


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