502

Donny McCaslin: Declaration

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Venturing into unexplored territory, New York-based tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin's third recording for Sunnyside Records is a marked departure from his previous release, the stripped-down trio session Recommended Tools (Greenleaf, 2008). Augmenting his working ensemble with an understated brass section, Declaration showcases McCaslin's stellar skills as an improviser while demonstrating his mettle as a burgeoning writer and arranger.

Renowned for his Olympian tenor solos, McCaslin's facile interpretive abilities were honed under the tutelage of George Garzone and Billy Pierce at Berklee, and documented as a sideman in the company of such luminaries as David Binney, Dave Douglas, Danilo Pérez and Maria Schneider. McCaslin comes into his own as a composer on this panoramic session, which highlights his creative virtuosity as soloist and writer in a variety of settings.

Joined by pianist Edward Simon and a four-piece brass choir, McCaslin's augmented quintet interprets these multi-hued compositions with brio. As veterans of McCaslin's previous Sunnyside dates, In Pursuit (2007) and Soar (2006), guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Scott Colley, drummer Antonio Sanchez and percussionist Pernell Saturnino lend this session a congenial sensibility filled with lyrical panache.

New to this longstanding core line-up, Simon proves as valuable a foil for McCaslin as Monder. Restrained and economical, Simon delivers billowy narrative soliloquies on "M" and "2nd Hour," offering serene contrast to the leader's fervid cadences. Whether amplifying McCaslin's muscular phrasing with scorching fretwork on the appropriately titled "Rock Me," or unveiling gossamer filigrees on the lush ballad "Jeanina," Monder's chameleonic versatility is peerless.

Embracing a wealth of genres and styles, the anthem-like opener "M" showcases the leader's pneumatic tenor, while "Fat Cat" demonstrates McCaslin and Simon's expertise navigating percolating Latin rhythms. The opulent harmonies of "Jeanina" and the plaintive Americana of the title track are the inverse of "Uppercut" and "2nd Hour"—labyrinthine post-bop excursions fraught with oblique angles and ingenious arrangements. Indicative of their titles, "Rock Me" is an electrified rave-up, with "Late Night Gospel" one of McCaslin's most compelling tunes—an ascending blues meditation featuring Simon and Monder's silver-toned lyricism buoyed by soulful brass accompaniment.

Considered one of the reigning mainstream tenor stylists of the post-Michael Brecker generation, Declaration is a bold new step for McCaslin, proving his abilities as a developing composer and arranger of note and opening new vistas on an already promising career.


Track Listing: M; Fat Cat; Declaration; Uppercut; Rock Me; Jeanina; 2nd Hour; Late Night Gospel.

Personnel: Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone, alto flute (1, 8); Edward Simon: acoustic piano, organ (5); Ben Monder: guitar; Scott Colley: bass; Antonio Sanchez: drums; Pernell Saturnino: percussion (2); Alex "Sasha" Sipiagin: trumpet, flugelhorn (1, 2, 3, 5, 7); Chris Komer: French horn (1, 2, 3, 5); Marshall Gilkes: trombone (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8); Marcus Rojas: tuba (3, 5, 7, 8), bass trombone (1); Tatum Greenblatt: trumpet (1).

Title: Declaration | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read ON Tour CD/LP/Track Review ON Tour
by John Kelman
Published: October 22, 2017
Read On a Distant Shore CD/LP/Track Review On a Distant Shore
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets CD/LP/Track Review Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Signal 9 CD/LP/Track Review Signal 9
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 22, 2017
Read For the Love of You CD/LP/Track Review For the Love of You
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Recent Developments CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read "Back Before Bach: Musical Journeys" CD/LP/Track Review Back Before Bach: Musical Journeys
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 31, 2017
Read "Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson" CD/LP/Track Review Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 2, 2017
Read "Another North" CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read "Live in Sant'Anna Arresi 2004" CD/LP/Track Review Live in Sant'Anna Arresi 2004
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 13, 2016
Read "El Bosque Brillante" CD/LP/Track Review El Bosque Brillante
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: October 7, 2017
Read "Wake Up Call" CD/LP/Track Review Wake Up Call
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 27, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.