Sunday, August 31, 2008

Donny McCaslin - Recommended Tools (Greenleaf, 2008)

Taking his cue from the great Sonny Rollins trio records like Freedom Suite and Way Out West, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin makes a bold statement with this muscular and powerful album. Supporting members Hans Glawischnig on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums play very well, but it is clear from the start that this is McCaslin's showpiece, and he handles the pressure very well. The sense of virile and masculine potency that pervades the entire album is stated in the first two performances, "Recommended Tools" and "Eventual" where McCaslin plants his feet and digs deep, billowing great swaths of dark toned tenor over propulsive bass and drums. The only true ballad on the album, the appropriately titled "Margins of Solitude" is thoughtful and brooding like an abstract painting. The album ends with its arguably finest performance, the extraordinary "Fast Brazil" which takes a very interesting rhythmic approach and knocks it out of the park. Mainstream jazz fans will enjoy the control that the group is able to find at often scalding tempos, while fans of the avant-garde, will no doubt be impressed by the intense energy that is focused by this group. This was a very precise and boldly defined statement by a saxophonist who has clearly come into his own. Revelling in the open space that the trio setting offered him, McCaslin has produced an excellent album.

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