East/West Coast Jazz. Donny McCaslin is a Santa Cruz-born, Berklee-trained tenor saxophonist who has played with Gary Burton, Eddie Gomez, and Maria Schneider. He performed at this past year's Monterey Jazz Festival and is now debuting as a date leader on Exile and Discovery. Naxos Jazz has burned an excellent CD of McCaslin and his merry rhythm section.
Down the Middle. McCaslin's first effort as a leader is very much a mainstream effort. This recording contains standards (Golson's "Along Came Betty", Strayhorn's "Isfahan", and Monk's "Bye-Ya"); originals ("Exile and Discovery", "A Prayer for Frances") and some surprises (two Piazolla Etudes and the Nash/Weill "Speak Low"). His playing has a whiff of Sonny Rollins by way of Michael Brecker and is quite distinctive and full of ideas. His support from Bruce Barth (piano), Ugonna Okegwo (Bass), and Billy Drummond (Drums) is exciting and complete. This disc is just plain fun.
Surprises. The two Piazolla Etudes provided a pleasant and unexpected punch to this disc. Etude #3 a solo saxophone workout, a fast tango where Etude #4 is a slower more seductive solo reading. Donny McCaslin is a super artist with a great future. I will be anticipating great music from this young man.
Naxos Jazz. This recording is among the third wave of Naxos Jazz releases, all of which have been review within these electric pages by this critic. I have found that all of these recordings have been of a very high quality. All, for the most part, have been recorded live direct to two track digital, preserving that special spontaneity that is jazz. Naxos Jazz has also provided a wide variety of styles and performances, all executed superbly. The other recent Naxos Jazz recordings include Bill Cunliffe's Bill Plays Bud, Clifford Adams' The Master Power, the Mike Nock Quintet's Ozboppin', Flipside's Flipside, and Larry Karush's Art of the Improviser.
Track Listing: Along Came Betty, Exile and Discovery, Isfahan, Mountain Mama, Tenderly, Etude #3, Speak
Low, A Prayer for Francis, Bye Ya, Etude #4.
Personnel: Donny McCaslin: Tenor Saxophone, Bruce Barth: Piano, Ugonna Okegwo, Billy Drummond, Drums.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.