Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Donny McCaslin - Declaration (Sunnyside, 2009)

Saxophonist Donny McCaslin's last album, 2008's Recommended Tools was one of my favorite albums of last year. Stark and lean, it was a very impressive performance. This album takes a different tack, with a larger group and a focus on melody making for a more lush and full bodied sound. Besides McCaslin, the core group consists of Edward Simon on piano and organ, Ben Monder on guitar, Scott Colley on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums. Extra brass is also added on several of the tracks. "M" opens the album with some mild guitar and piano. McCaslin's tenor saxophone builds slowly to and exciting feature, and after his extended solo, there is a piano feature before the full band comes in to finish. "Fat Cat" also has a mellow opening, giving way to a majestic tenor saxophone solo that is nicely paced and padded with some nice arrangements underneath. "Declaration" has a yearning feel, ballad saxophone playing measured and sublime. "Rock Me" picks up the tempo very nicely with an exciting tenor saxophone solo and some killing electric guitar playing from Ben Monder. Horns fill back in and take the arrangement to a near symphonic or cinematic conclusion. "Jeanina" and "2nd Hour" return to the mid-tempo sensibility that pervades most of this album, but "Late Night Gospel" ends the proceedings with a beautiful ballad, McCaslin's tenor saxophone getting a deeply sensuous and breathy sound. This album worked well with interesting arrangements and fine soloing, particularly from the leader, whose thoughtful and patient sculpting of his solos was very impressive.
Declaration - amazon.com

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