Donny McCaslin: I Want More

The saxophonist has moved on from his Blackstar moment but this album shares a similar feeling, often permeated with a subliminal dark vibe

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Saxophonist Donny McCaslin’s 15th album sees him backed by bassist Tim Lefebvre, drummer Mark Guiliana and keyboardist Jason Lindner, all of whom played on David Bowie’s album Blackstar (ISO, 2016). Whilst Blackstar was the final studio album released in Bowie’s lifetime (by just two days) it is often regarded as his “jazz” album.

The jury’s out on the veracity of that definition but it’s certainly Bowie’s most intriguing and poignant recording, not least because – to paraphrase producer Tony Visconti’s summation – in contrast to Bowie’s usual deployment of rockers these jazz musicians turned the music upside down. I Want More at times shares a similarity of feel to Blackstar, often permeated with a subliminal dark vibe.

But McCaslin has moved on from his Blackstar moment, notably participating on several Maria Schneider recordings including her magnum opus Data Lords (ArtistShare, 2020) and his own recent albums Beyond Now (Motéma, 2016) and Blow (Motéma, 2018) again notably assisted by Lindner, Lefebvre and Guiliana.

The history is longer: McCaslin has been a well-respected and in-demand tenorist for decades. After studying at Berklee College Of Music he joined Gary Burton’s group and was later a member of Steps Ahead. As a sideman he’s recorded on more than 60 albums.

I Want More is populated by spacey, echoey compositions that oscillate from faintly lugubrious anthems such as Stria and the emotionally packed title track to more ebullient numbers like the dub bass-underpinned Fly My Space Ship, overlaid by swirling electronica.

There’s more rock-infused heft conveyed on the riffy Body Blow, juxtaposing starkly with the moody, plangent Big Screen. Of the two penultimate tunes, Turbo is fuelled by an urgent undercurrent in which McCaslin builds a torrent of tenor notes, whilst the backdrop of neo-reggae on Landsdown is interspersed by a complex harmonically rich counterpoint concluding with a mournful string quartet outro.

Discography
Stria; Fly My Space Ship; Hold Me Tight; Body Blow; Big Screen; Turbo; Landsdown; I Want More (43.13)
McCaslin (ts, f); Jason Lindner (syn, elp, elec); Tim Lefebvre (elb); Mark Guiliana (d) and others. Los Angeles, no date.
Edition Records 1219