One of New York City's busiest tenors, California native Donny McCaslin grew up in Santa Cruz, joining his vibraphonist father's band at age 12 and playing both at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center and in the Monterey Jazz Festival's California All-Star Band while just a teenager.
After attending Boston's Berklee College of Music, McCaslin toured for four years with Berklee professor (and vibe legend) Gary Burton, then moved to New York, where he replaced Michael Brecker in the group Steps Ahead. But McCaslin really began to turn heads with his solo work in larger ensembles--first Ken Schaphorst's big band, and subsequently the acclaimed Maria Schneider Orchestra, where his performance on the album Concert In The Garden won him a 2004 Grammy nomination for “Best Jazz Instrumental Solo."
Those “traditional" credentials provide the anchor for McCaslin's much-admired work in more adventurous realms. Chief among these are the quartet Lan Xang (which evolved from an experimental partnership with fellow New York saxist David Binney), and the quintet led by the widely lionized trumpeter Dave Douglas, who added McCaslin to his band in 2005. Reviewing the latter group in Jazz Times, Josef Woodard wrote of McCaslin: “He's a versatile player who moves easily between inside and outside musical zones . . . . [T]here's a fluidity and grace to his playing even when he's pushing at envelopes."
Thanks to the high profile of the Dave Douglas Quintet, McCaslin in the last two years has achieved wider praise for the incisive twists and purposeful turns of his emotionally charged solos. (He won the 2008 DownBeat Critics Poll in the "Rising Star Tenor Saxophone" category.) But those qualities--along with his sometimes startling virtuosity, and his distinctive voice as a composer--had actually been on display for much of the previous decade, during which McCaslin proved himself a valued sideman on recordings by Danilo Perez and Luciana Souza and in performances with Tom Harrell, Brian Blade, John Pattitucci, The Mingus Big Band, and Pat Metheny. Meanwhile, his previous albums as a leader have shown him incorporating elements of Latin music within adventurous jazz frameworks.
His new release, Recommended Tools (his seventh, and his debut for Dave Douglas's Greenleaf Music label), finds McCaslin working for the first time in a trio setting. With bassist Hans Glawischnig (Ray Barretto, Stefon Harris, Miguel Zenon) and drummer Johnathan Blake (Tom Harrell, Jaleel Shaw, Russell Malone), McCaslin has made this highly emotive format a vehicle for his virtuosic blowing and distinct compositional voice. (Drummer Ted Poor [David Berkman, Ben Monder, Cuong Vu] will be sitting in for Johnathan Blake on this date.) Trenched in free-flowing arrangements with dynamic interplay among the members of the band, this work harkens back to the classic trio recordings of Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson. Just the same, McCaslin retains a progressive, eclectic approach, citing Bill Frisell, Hermeto Pascoal, Stravinsky and Messiaen as inspirations.
(Adapted from Greenleaf Music / Two For the Show Media)
Tickets ($15 General
Admission, $10 Students & Seniors) are available here
at our website, or
(in late August) at The Metro, People's Records, and The Works.
Donny McCaslin will also
present a FREE public workshop entitled "Recommended Tools for Improvising" on Wednesday morning, September 10th at 11:00 a.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on
the HSU campus.
More Information on Donny McCaslin:
Listen to a chronological sampling of Donny McCaslin's recorded output--from early work with the Ken Schaphorst Big Band ("Uprising") through his Grammy-nominated solo with the Maria Schneider Orchestra (“Buleria, Solea Y Rumba”) to his more recent albums as a leader. (The final cut, "Fast Brazil," features the trio he's bringing to Humboldt.) Click on the "Launch Player" button below: