Donny McCaslin Trio: Recommended Tools (2008)
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The title song to Donny McCaslin Trio's Recommended Tools says it all. The tenor sax, bass and drums go all out in a freely expressive preview of what's to come. Each instrument gets its moment in the spotlight.
McCaslin is a product of Santa Cruz, California, and a father who played piano and vibraphone. He began playing tenor sax at the age of twelve, which ultimately led to some appearances in Europe. He later joined the group Steps Ahead and has performed with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, Brian Blade, John Patitucci and Pat Metheny among others.
At times chaotic and at times melodic, "Eventual" takes no prisoners. Bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Jonathan Blake score major points with solos, but they're also very involved when McCaslin leads. There is an engaging call and response, but mostly this selection features the three-piece unit with each musician complementing the others.
"The Champion" is a gear-shifting piece. The main rhythm is energetic, but the song transforms into a mellow, almost subdued pace, before shifting back to high speed. With the bass and drums silent for an extended period, McCaslin plunges the tenor into some of its lowest depths and then takes it up. The entire jaunt is crisp, clean and engaging.
The trio sizzles on "3 Signs," another high-energy track. Glawischnig is strong in support, and Blake gives no part of his kit a break. During one sequence, tenor sax and bass carry the rhythm while Blake takes off on his own course.
Nine of the ten tracks are McCaslin originals. The lone cover is Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan." But whether performing ballads or hard-charging music, Recommended Tools is a fun time in the musical workshop.
Track Listing: Recommended Tools; Eventual; Late Night Gospel; Excursion; Isfahan; The Champion; Margins of Solitude; 3 Signs; 2nd Hour Revisited; Fast Brazil.
Personnel: Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone; Hans Glawischnig: bass; Jonathan Blake: drums.