Acclaimed saxophonist Donny McCaslin takes a bold leap forward with his tenth album as a leader, Casting for Gravity. McCaslin's gargantuan tenor sound finds an ideal setting to rampage through in the ferocious grooves and electronic textures of keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Tim Lefebvre, and drummer Mark Guiliana. Couching his trademark gift for brawny melodies in lurching dub rhythms, swirling electronica-inspired atmospheres, and arena-rock power, McCaslin has crafted a game-changer of an album, fusing a wealth of forward-looking influences into one wholly new modern jazz sound.
Saxophonist Donny McCaslin brought a fresh perspective to the acoustic-electronic jazz soundscape with 2012's Casting for Gravity (Greenleaf Music) which earned a Grammy nomination for "Best Instrumental Jazz Solo" for the track "Stadium Jazz." Thankfully it was not a one-off as McCaslin reassembles the tightly knit band and savvy production from saxophonist David Binney in Fast Future, a release that continues the groove factor.
To describe saxophonist Greg Ward's Touch My Beloved's Thought as his magnum opus is to impede his development as a composer. Let's just say for many a jazz artist, if this recording were included in their discography, it would be their signature piece. For Ward, it just represents the possibilities.
A few years ago the trumpeter-composer Dave Douglas released “Be Still,” a beautifully poignant album made in response to the loss of his mother. The album also formally unveiled his new band, a young quintet with the creative resources to hit the ground running. “Brazen Heart,” Mr. Douglas’s assured new release, showcases the same group at a more advanced stage in its evolution, as he again tries to transcend grief with art.
Working with the same quintet that delivered his 2012 album Be Still, trumpeter Dave Douglas returns to a more straight-ahead, if no less adventurous, jazz style with 2013's Time Travel. Once again joining Douglas here are his bandmates saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh, and drummer Rudy Royston. Absent is vocalist Aoife O'Donovan, who was the focal point of Be Still's hymn, folk song, and ballads approach. Here, Douglas is interested in a more angular post-bop sound that, while still evincing a modern creative vibe, fits more squarely into the jazz tradition than Be Still. Which isn't to say this album is staid by any means.
For the most part, the new disc stands up nicely alongside its predecessor. Greenleaf is first and foremost a singer, belting out blues in the fiery, hollering style of Koko Taylor. But Trying To Hold On shows that she's also a very capable songwriter, able to hew to the genre's traditions while revealing her own writing voice……