Proust, Faulkner and Joyce: all wrote in protracted sentences that challenge the reader's mettle. Donny McCaslin is one such improviser, creating melodic lines that seem to stretch out and out and out, yet, through rigorous internal logic, never lose the thread of the narrative nor rankle the listener with overblown verbosity. Give and Go
is McCaslin's fourth album as a leader and his first on Criss Cross, coming hot on the high-heels of his Grammy-nominated work on Maria Schneider's Concert in the Garden
and his induction into the latest incarnation of the Dave Douglas Quintet. The disc features John Swana (trumpet), Steve Cardenas (guitar), Scott Colley (bass) and Gene Jackson (drums), and contains seven original compositions plus a cover of Monk's "Eronel, meeting and raising the ante of expectation. Cardenas' comping is sparse but just-right, leaving empathetic spaces for the others to play off of and into; Swana's trumpet enhances four numbers, especially "Doom Fuss, in which tenor and trumpet pass the ball back and forth; Colley and Jackson have many fine momentsbut this is really McCaslin's show.
The leader's extended phrases are literate and loquacious, containing sequences within sequences, motifs built on ping-ponging pedal tones, slowly morphing melodic contours, step progressions with several ideas developing spontaneouslyalways adhering to an artistic algorithm that accommodates the harmonic underpinnings of the tune even as it vigorously forges ahead. It is a testament to McCaslin's technical fluency that he never sounds wordy and his musical thoughts never suffocate before the air runs out.
Personnel: Donny McCaslin: tenor & soprano sax; John Swana: trumpet; Steve gardenas: guitar; Scott Colley: bass; Gene Jackson: drums.