Donny McCaslin: Recommended Tools


Recommended Tools


Donny McCaslin (tenor sax)


Recommended Tools (Greenleaf Music)

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Donny McCaslin (tenor sax),

Hans Glawischnig (bass), Johnathan Blake (drums)


Composed by Donny McCaslin


Recorded: Brooklyn, NY, February 27, 2008


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Saxophonist Donny McCaslin is a regular member of the very fine Dave Douglas Quintet. Recommended Tools is his 7th album as leader but first for Douglas's new label, Greenleaf Music. The recording's release coincides with McCaslin winning the 2008 Down Beat poll for Rising Star.

McCaslin can play straight ahead or experimentally with equal effect. Recommended Tools is mostly the latter. Either physically or through recording tricks, McCaslin's saxophone is placed in another room. This distance, whether real or synthetic, causes a millisecond of delay in McCaslin's responses. It works just fine with this music, creating an interesting atmosphere that adds to the recording's reverberating ambiance.

Most of what is called experimental jazz rarely moves me. Credit is always given for the effort. But far-out hypotheses are hard to prove. All is a waste of listening research if in the end the testing doesn't help to prove or disprove a theory.

The sound issue I mentioned earlier is the key to the enjoyment of this music. The drums and bass, both aggressively played, inhabit the foreground. McCaslin's sax is in the background. McCaslin can play the hell out of that thing. He is full of inventive textures and freewheeling energy. But the fact he is isolated obliges you to listen harder. Between drumbeats you can hear him squealing away. The overall sonic quality was a thought-out plan. It was another material used for the experiment. It may take a moment for your ears to achieve equilibrium. But once they do, you will find yourself unconsciously locked into a free-jazz groove. "Recommended Tools" is a successful experiment.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky


  • 1 Marcus Roald // Aug 18, 2008 at 05:49 PM
    I have to say since I just got this record in the mail, this is a trio record that is very easily accessible. Calling this free-jazz really doesn't do it justice. To me, it sounds more like a straight-ahead trio album circa the mid-60s rather than an "experimental" free-jazz record.
  • 2 Walter Kolosky // Sep 17, 2008 at 04:59 PM
    Hi Marcus. thanks for the comments. Please remember I am reviewing only one cut above and I do say most of the music on the album is as you describe. "McCaslin can play straight ahead or experimentally with equal effect. Recommended Tools (The album) is mostly the latter."
  • 3 Walter Kolosky // Feb 21, 2009 at 07:26 PM
    Sometimes very late I night I go back to reviews I have written to make sure I did a good job. I think it must have been really late when I posted my response to Marcus. I argued against what I wrote for some reason! And then I messed up the English language as well. (You know that whole "former" "latter" issue?) So for the record, I heard the music the way I described it and not quite like Marcus did. That could be for several different reasons that will remain a mystery because taste is.