Donny McCaslin: The Champion


The Champion


Donny McCaslin (tenor sax)


Recommended Tools (Greenleaf)

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Donny McCaslin (tenor sax), Hans Glawischnig (bass), Jonathan Blake (drums).

Composed by Donny McCaslin


Recorded: New York, February 27-28, 2008


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Donny McCaslin's name rarely shows up in bright lights. He has released a half-dozen leader dates, but is better known for sideman work in Steps Ahead, the Maria Schneider Orchestra and other top-flight bands where his name is hidden inside the CD booklet. I am not sure if his 2008 leader date Recommended Tools will give him a bigger dose of stardom, but he certainly deserves wider acclaim. There are few tenor players on the scene who impress me more than McCaslin. On "The Champion" (dedicated to Hermeto Pascoal, another unsung hero), he works wonders with a song that starts out as little more than a percussion-type figure played on the sax, a serpentine melody that constantly turns in on itself. The interaction with bassist Glawischnig and drummer Blake is inspired, but the centerpiece of this track is a long solo sax section in which McCaslin is everywhere, playing fast figures, bass notes, setting rhythmic patterns into motion, soaring into the high register or bellowing in the cellar. This is potent music, and one more sign that Donny McCaslin has arrived in the elite ranks of the jazz world.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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