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recording of the week,Donny McCaslin - I Want More

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    Posted: 16 Jul 2023 at 10:18pm

recording of the week,Donny McCaslin - I Want More

by Barney Whittaker

DONNY MCCASLIN - I Want More cover

As Donny McCaslin’s lonesome tenor horn solemnly sweeps its way across the introduction of David Bowie’s album, Blackstar (2016), it’s as if he’s attempting to communicate through music what millions would undoubtedly experience for themselves: a grief-filled farewell to an icon, an inspiration and, in the case of the Brooklyn-based saxophonist, an unlikely partner. Cast your mind back to those halcyon days (before COVID, before Brexit, before, well, everything!) and you may recall it was the untimely passing of the ‘Chameleon of Rock’ just ten days into that fateful year to which many commentators at the time attributed the seemingly unending downward spiral of social, cultural and political behaviours into a mire of unrecognisable new norms we still manage to find ourselves in today. Still, if it offered some small respite then at least Bowie’s sudden and clandestine demise gifted us all a pinch of dramatic irony with which we may now approach and contextualise his final work – certainly a career best, if not his magnum opus – aided in no small part by the adventurous musical foundations of McCaslin and his band.

 Take ‘Lazarus’ (the last single released during Bowie’s lifetime), for example. Isolated, distraught and ultimately weary from the offset, the track features McCaslin and the singer intertwined as the bandleader instrumentally evokes both the symbol of Bowie’s absconding bluebird, as well as suggesting the celestial presence watching down from above. The lament casts off its funereal melancholy once the music shifts from A Minor to its relative key of C Major, a moment that allows the song to retain its initially emotive harmonic flavouring, albeit with a brighter and more joyful sense of tonality. It is paths such as these which insist, for better or for worse, that McCaslin’s career will forever be divided into two formative eras: ‘pre-Blackstar’ and ‘post-Blackstar’.

Fast-forward over almost a decade of intense touring and two more successful studio albums later to where we now find McCaslin in the driving seat once again, as he presents his latest recording, I Want More: a barnstorming forty-three minutes of slick, modern and riotous jazz-rooted post-rock and electronica. Inaugurating his tenure on Edition Records in a suitably progressive manner, there is an edge to this record that simply never pauses to let off steam. Despite having found his audience, it is clear that McCaslin is still searching for a new message to convey. He calls on the tried-and-tested recipe of his frequent collaborators, Mark Guiliana, Tim Lefebvre and Jason Lindner, in a setting the core group have come to relish since the Bowie-days – not to mention the addition of a string quartet, led by violinist Sara Casewell on tracks ‘Lansdown’ and ‘Big Screen’. The ensemble offers a scintillating blend of tangled post-bop and ecstasy-driven breakbeats, skilfully refraining from over-complicating matters lest they should end up too complex and impenetrable. There exists a rightful knack to capturing the sonic dimensions of a cityscape which all metropolitan-located performers have tasked themselves with at one point or another, and McCaslin and crew are amongst the best of them.

This album will come as an exhilarating blast into outer space for anyone still on the fence, debating whether or not they should allow themselves to fully embrace what some might loosely describe as ‘out there’. The reward certainly outweighs the risk, however, as McCaslin revels in his masterful consideration of structure and form – two often overlooked features in music that remain just as vital as any other compositional element – provided you come along for the ride. With the number of strings to his bow ever increasing, the bandleader electronically manipulates heartbeats with the same precision he treats the sonorities of his horn. Such is the excitement of the bombastic energy this futuristic endeavour hurdles itself along with that it can often border on dangerous – but, at least with Donny at the helm, the travellers are sure to reach their starbound destination on time. 


I Want More 

Donny McCaslin

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Barney Whittaker

from www.prestomusic.com

Edited by snobb - 16 Jul 2023 at 10:21pm
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