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INTERVIEWS

Donny McCaslin: Lightness and Gravity

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Saxophonist Donny McCaslin seems like a young player, given his energy and inventiveness. But he has been playing jazz for three decades. As a child, he was part of his father's jazz ensemble and a member of his high school jazz band. He led his own bands after moving to New York from his native California, but also did considerable sideman duty. In particular, McCaslin broke into the highest ranks of critical acclaim thanks to his turns with bandleader Maria Schneider and trumpeter Dave Douglas. Highlights of McCaslin's tenure in these groups include his solos on “Bulería, Soleá y Rumba," ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donny McCaslin: Casting For Gravity

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Incorporating electronic instrumentation into his palette, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin dishes out a thrusting program that could, to some extent, be nestled within the jazz-fusion genre, but not in the traditional sense. The hard-hitting saxophonist and his band integrate fusion mechanics and spacey treatments to underscore many of the popping grooves, thundering pulses, knotty time signatures and progressive-jazz type soloing exchanges with keyboardist Jason Lindner. But McCaslin doesn't engage technical gymnastics or complexities simply for the sake of it. It's a high-impact and polytonal program, tinted with razor-sharp detours, pummeling rhythms, and airy interludes. One of the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donny McCaslin: Casting For Gravity

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Tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin has bravely developed a uniquely personal sound that proudly claims its heritage in the long mainstream of jazz, yet sounds freshly innovative. He has released eleven albums under his leadership, among which Recommended Tools (Greenleaf, 2008), with its punishing, revealing trio format, was a high-water mark. McCaslin deploys sheets-of-sound density inherited from saxophonist John Coltrane, together with an inventive approach to rhythm and the placement of notes. This latter characteristic can sometimes resemble the playing of saxophonist Chris Potter, a resemblance brought into clearer focus on this heavily electric album.And Casting for Gravity is ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donny McCaslin: Casting For Gravity

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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, singer Kate McGarry, and composers/arrangers Ryan Truesdell, and Maria Schneider, McCaslin grew up in California listening to fusion, pop, and bands like Tower Of Power that ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Donny McCaslin Group: Half Moon Bay, CA, September 11, 2011

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Donny McCaslin GroupDouglas Beach HouseHalf Moon Bay, CaliforniaSeptember 11, 2011 From New York City, the Donny McCaslin Group arrived at the Douglas Beach House with everything ready to go. The group consisted of tenor saxophonist McCaslin, pianist Uri Caine, bassist Fima Ephron and drummer Mark Guiliana. McCaslin's latest album, Perpetual Motion (Greenleaf, 2011) formed the foundation for a tour whose California leg was scheduled to end with the Monterey Jazz Festival. It was a pleasure to have McCaslin's group stop off at the Douglas Beach House, and provide a taste of this powerful album.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donny McCaslin: Perpetual Motion

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Perpetual Motion is tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin's first dedicated foray into the electrified realms of funk, R&B and soul. A renowned soloist whose memberships in Dave Douglas' Quintet, Mingus Dynasty and the Maria Schneider Orchestra have won him great acclaim (including a Grammy nomination for his work with Schneider's Orchestra), McCaslin has delved into groove-based territory in the past, but never as exclusively as he does on this simmering electro-acoustic platter.McCaslin's recent releases have relied on primarily acoustic line-ups, including the brass augmented set, Declaration (Greenleaf, 2009), and the stripped-down trio effort, Recommended Tools (Greenleaf, 2008). This heavily ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donny McCaslin: Perpetual Motion

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Saxophonist Donny McCaslin can be called, quite accurately, a fearless player, whether it's for his prodigious and always adventurous work as a sideman--very notably with trumpeter Dave Douglas' quintet and with Maria Schneider's award-winning orchestra (for which he garnered a Grammy nomination), or on his own discs as a leader.McCaslin's musical spirit is a searching one, exploring different facets of his artistry on the pared-down and often fiery trio outing, Recommended Tools (Greenleaf Records, 2008); going after the Latin flavorings on In Pursuit (Sunnyside Records, 2007); applying an expanded palette on Declaration (Sunnyside Records, 2010); and now charging ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donny McCaslin: Perpetual Motion

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Each new record from tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin is cause for celebration. With each album, McCaslin has put himself in the middle of a different instrumental configuration, challenging the saxophonist to reach new heights, and Perpetual Motion is no different. Now that he has proven his mettle on the piano-less trio battleground with Recommended Tools (Greenleaf, 2008), and demonstrated his significant arranging abilities with Declaration (Sunnyside, 2009), McCaslin moves on to a roiling locale with electric undercurrents. The music on Perpetual Motion moves easily from turbulent tantrums to slick grooves, and McCaslin is nothing short of exceptional ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donny McCaslin: Perpetual Motion

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Donny McCaslin's Perpetual Motion is an embarrassment of riches, employing a lineup populated by the edgiest, most progressive-thinking jazz musicians currently composing. Alto saxophonist David Binney (who also produces the disc), pianist Uri Caine, bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Antonio Sanchez have been producing music that has positively expanded jazz music for the past decade. McCaslin has made good company with these artists since hitting his stride on Declaration (Sunnyside, 2009) and Recommended Tools (Greenleaf Music, 2008), and here, this group of musicians are charting jazz's course. McCaslin's gentle ballad, “Firefly," reveals an amorphous and spiritual direction ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donny McCaslin: Perpetual Motion

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Donny McCaslin has long been one of the under-sung superstars of the modern tenor saxophone. In recent years, however, as both a leader and sideman with big band leader Maria Schneider, the Mingus Dynasty band, and trumpeter Dave Douglas, McCaslin has gained more and more well-deserved recognition. Drawing off the best of the 21st century's jazz, funk and rock fusion, Perpetual Motion demonstrates the sheer power of McCaslin as a player, and the individuality of his musical vision. Back-to-back marathons really set the stage for the album. The title track starts on the mellow side, before exploding ...

ARTIST PROFILES

Donny McCaslin

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If saxophonist Donny McCaslin's life were made into a movie, the following 'scene' could be a natural start: A young boy perched on a stool on the bandstand at a California mall. Too young to be let loose to wander, it's an efficient way his working father could keep an eye on the boy and still do his regular Sunday gig playing standards. The grown-up McCaslin--now juggling the delights and rigors of new fatherhood with his career as an outstanding musician with eight highly enjoyable recordings as a leader and many important sideman credits--still inhabits bandstands. But ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Geggietrio + Donny McCaslin: Across the Sky

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With too many musicians releasing albums as leaders before they're ready, Canadian bassist John Geggie is a refreshing alternative. Waiting until his late forties might, in fact, seem a little overcautious for this central figure on the Ottawa scene, but to compensate--and better demonstrate the breadth of his musical interests--he's released two debuts as a leader, a few scant months apart. Geggie Project (Ambiances Magnétiques, 2009), featuring longtime drummer Nick Fraser and pianist Marilyn Crispell--with whom Geggie has forged an ongoing relationship since first inviting her to perform in his 2003 Geggie Concert Series--is a freer and largely more introspective ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Donny McCaslin Group at The Jazz Standard, Dec. 16, NYC

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Donny McCaslin Group Jazz Standard New York, New York December 16, 2009

The music from Donny McCaslin's recent album Declaration was the basis of this evening's first set, which was part of the saxophonist's two-day stand at the Manhattan jazz club, where he appeared with his nine-piece ensemble (Ben Monder: guitar; Hans Glawischnig: bass; John Clarke: French horn; Marshall Gilkes: trombone; Ed Simon:piano; Alex “Sasha" Sipiagin: trumpet; Marcus Rojas: tuba; Adam Cruz: drums). The band kicked off with “M," immediately showcasing the leader's skills with a solo filled with arpeggios and long ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Donny McCaslin: Declaration

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Declaration is tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin's eighth solo effort, a compilation of original compositions and arrangements featuring a three- to five-horn brass section including trumpets, trombones, French horn and tuba. With Edward Simon (piano/organ), Ben Monder (guitar), Scott Colley (bass) and Antonio Sanchez (drums) making up the core band, the result is a far denser sound than his previous trio outing. Like earlier efforts, McCaslin's songs are sterling, ranging from bittersweet ballads to funky rock to quirky postmodern bop. The title track is slow and soulful, with beautiful brass textures; “Uppercut" is progressively chromatic; “Rock Me" is ...



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