Friday, August 11, 2006

Donny McCaslin - Give and Go (Criss Cross, 2006)

Saxophonist and composer Donny McCaslin's profile has been rising in the jazz world with a Grammy nomination, prominent sideman appearances, and two new albums as a leader in 2006. This one is a modern-day blowing session, where McCaslin hooks up with John Swana on trumpet; Steve Cardenas on guitar; Scott Colley on bass and Gene Jackson on drums. They take original compositions and a few covers and strip them down for some fascinating improvisational flights. McCaslin and Swana make for a very efficient front line soloing with forethought and spontaneity. Cardenas is an excellent addition to the group adding some very interesting textures to the proceedings.

The music is mostly upbeat and burning with the group laying down a melody and then breaking out into solos to embellish the theme. "Out Law" opens the disc with an anxious melody and the group carries this on with a series of apprehensive solos. "Give and Go" throws in a basketball reference to its fast pace, before "The Liberators" finally slows the pace down with some fine ballad playing. Anyone who enjoys strong mainstream jazz performance with echoes of 1960's Blue Note and Prestige blowing sessions should find a lot to enjoy here.

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