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Donny AgainOnly Different.Hidden Gardens is the third Naxos Jazz release on which West Coast tenorist Donny McCaslin appears. He led his group on Exile and Discovery (Naxos Jazz 86014) and soloed with the Ken Schaphorst Big Band on Purple (Naxos Jazz 86030), both released in 1998. Here he appears with his sometimes group Lan Xang (founded in 1994 by McCaslin and Binney with another submission of Eastern-influenced jazz. Lan Xang released Lan Xang in 1997 on Mythology MR10971, with pianist Fred Hersch's regular drummer Jeff Hirschfield.
The present edition of Lan Xang replaces Hirschfield with Kenny Wollensen. The music remains qualitatively the same: a collection of Eastern modal mysteries skillfully played. The pieces are composed and performed as loose veils of ideas, aphorous melodies that float lightly. McCaslin and Binney provide reed power, propelled by the abbreviated rhythm section of Scott Colley and Wollesen. The pieces are all originals, the bulk being composed by the group. Like the band name implies, the music of Lan Xang is quite exotic, appealing and avant-garde. It will appeal to those listeners who prefer their jazz more free than most, but not spinning out of control.
Track Listing: The Restless Many; Trinity Place; Xang Six; Segues; Mode Four; Incurable Dreaminess; Hidden Gardens; Xang Seven; Xang Eight; Gradual Impulse; Parting From a View; Xang Nine; Free To Dream; Xang Ten; Xang Eleven.
Personnel: Donny McCaslin: saxophones, flute, percussion; David Binney: alto saxophone, clarinet, sampling; Scott Colley: bass, percussion; Kenny Wollesen drums, percussion.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.