Donny McCaslin, the renowned American jazz saxophonist, is set to release his 10th album, Casting For Gravity. Jazz is one of the genres that can be played entirely wrong or exceptionally well. When it’s done wrong, it belongs to be played through the speaker of an elevator or when you’re placed on hold during a call. Luckily for McCaslin, he has done it great, and listeners will certainly not hear him in their elevator ride.
McCaslin’s tenor saxophone ability on the disc is so clean, incorporating rhythm and melody on his own, that he would sound just as well creating a solo album release. The tenor saxophone is accompanied by other musicians on electric bass, piano, synthesizers, drums, and electric/acoustic guitars. There was not a point in any of the tracks where the accompanying instruments overstepped their boundaries, leaving the tenor sax to take lead throughout. On “Tension,” McCaslin opened up with various staccato articulations that are used frequently for a rhythmic flair. The track name fits the style that was used well. The minor key creates a “tension” and clashing sound that one would expect to sound awful to the ears; however, it is executed flawlessly. “Bend” is the cut that really stands out to me for all the right reasons. It begins with the sax playing an interesting melody on the same few notes that acts as a repetitive theme along the track. McCaslin’s usage of articulation and vibrato techniques has the tenor saxophone carrying the number all the way through to the end.
For McCaslin, he has taken jazz to a contemporary level with the addition of synthesizers. It’s unfortunate that jazz is put on the back burner as far as popular genres go. McCaslin may pave the way for other musicians like himself to become popular again.