Album reviews

Donny McCaslin Quartet – ‘I Want More’ 

Donny McCaslin Quartet – I Want More

(Edition Records EDNDA1219. Album review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

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For listeners familiar with Donny McCaslin’s work in his acoustic quartet, or in his key role as a soloist in Maria Schneider’s Orchestra, his latest album, I Want More, on Edition Records comes as a surprise.  The album is a hard-hitting set of music that makes full use of the possibilities of a studio recording, bringing together elements of jazz, improv., and electronica, all with the high octane energy of rock music.  

The quartet is that which McCaslin has been working with for many years,  Jason Lindner on synths and keyboards, Tim Lefebvre on bass and Mark Guiliana on drums.  This is the group that David Bowie invited to play on his final album, Black Star, and the music on I Want More is a logical development of the group’s playing on the Black Star album.  

The key features of the music are apparent on the first track, Stria; McCaslin saxophone sound is enhanced by multiple electronic effects, and this sound is integrated with the similarly enhanced sounds of the synths, bass and drums to create powerful and exciting layers of music.  This track is followed by Fly My Spaceship which gives a hint that the music also aims to build on the legacy of the Sun Ra Arkestra, but to place it in a much more intense and vibrant electronic context.  

The intensity drops somewhat on two tracks, Hold Me Tight and Big Screen on which McCaslin creates rather haunting melodic lines on the saxophone.  On the latter track that effect is augmented by the contributions of a string quartet. The string quartet plays a more prominent role on Lansdown, a track that begins with a repetitive beat from the drums which is picked up by McCaslin on the tenor saxophone, but then enters into a short section featuring the string quartet which in turn leads back into the repeated pattern of the saxophone over the drums.  The string quartet returns and takes over the final third of the track.

The key and most successful feature of the album is the way it makes use of electronics and of manipulating the saxophone’s sound, but does so in a totally integrated way;  this is very much a group album. It is exhilarating to listen to, and confirms the McCaslin quartet as a group that is building on the legacy of its role on the Black Star album to create fresh and innovative music.  

LINK: Purchase I Want More

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