Donny McCaslin: Uppercut




Donny McCaslin (tenor sax)


Declaration (Sunnyside 1218)

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Donny McCaslin (tenor sax), Edward Simon (piano), Ben Monder (guitar), Scott Colley (bass), Antonio Sanchez (drums).

Composed by Donny McCaslin


Recorded: Brooklyn, NY, January & February 2009


Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

Donny McCaslin has a steely, angular sound and urgency in his music. As a prolific sideman with such incubators of progressive music as the Maria Schneider Orchestra and the Dave Douglas Quintet, he can mold his playing to the needs of demanding composers and arrangers. When he offers his own material, we hear where his musical heart lies.

On the quick tempo “Uppercut”, McCaslin takes us through a catchy repeating melody for two choruses. At the bridge, his phrasing morphs seamlessly from swinging bellowing lows to bright, jagged highs before he restates the melody once again. Colley offers a lively, dancing bass solo as Monder comps lightly behind him. This soft but spirited section contrasts perfectly with the approaching storm. As he volleys a flurry of notes, McCaslin skillfully bobs and weaves around the tune’s core. Sanchez and Simon prod him on with punctuation where needed, until McCaslin settles into a natural cadence. Crescendos of sound pour from his horn like the sweat from an exhausted boxer’s brow. Ever inventive, ever more urgent and with little pause for reflection, this torrent of energy builds to an exhilarating climax. McCaslin’s corner men Colley, Sanchez and Simon keep him firmly in the ring until he returns to the refrain to settle the score with his final exclamatory and victorious blow.

Reviewer: Ralph A. Miriello

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