I can hear him alongside Dave Douglas in his Quintet, and as a star soloist with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, but I’ve always found I can’t quite get enough of this amazing tenor saxophonist.
This album goes a long way to feeding that appetite. Certainly I can’t complain I don’t get to hear enough of Donny here, with nearly 80 minutes of music, much of it dominated by the man himself.
From the off with the fast and funky Five Hands Down, McCaslin is bringing his considerable musical arsenal to bear upon the melodic and harmonic content. What I hear from him is a strong forward line and wonderfully articulated phrasing, but combined with a highly personal and seemingly inexhaustible supply of patterns to play on any old scale that presents itself.
On the title track he again throws his full bag of tricks into his improvisation – big, big lungs and extraordinary energy. He is also a player who has the power to bring excitement to the bottom of the instrument.
Although there is a lot of McCaslin on this disc, there is also a fair amount of Fender Rhodes and piano from both Uri Caine and Adam Benjamin, strong bass from Tim Lefebvre, great drumming from Antonio Sanchez and Mark Guiliana, and some electronic manipulation and a bit of alto from producer David Binney.
Try Claire for a great McCaslin/Sanchez work-out; Firefly for a gorgeous tune; Memphis Redux for a groove Steely Dan might get going if they were in really soulful mood; and Impossible Machine for a lop-sided time that really hooks you in. The playing on all is superb, wide in range, rich in excitement.
It’s quite an electric album, flirts with fusion at times, and really paints a characterful portrait of a hugely talented and characterful player. If you don’t know Donny but like Seamus Blake or Chris Potter, he just could be your man.
An especial joy for tenor freaks, then, but a life-affirming experience for all and sundry. Find out more and sample a track or two here