The man on the bottom | Bleader

The man on the bottom

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Tonight the grippingly malleable saxophonist Donny McCaslin opens a two-night stand at the Green Mill with his trio. In this context the reedist deservedly and commandingly takes center stage--but his savvy rhythm section, bassist Hans Glawischnig, pictured, and drummer Johnathan Blake, deserve some special attention.

Austrian-American Glawischnig excels as a support player, pumping out the crucial heartbeat of the music from the background. It's a role he’s expertly filled over the years for the likes of James Moody, Ray Barretto, and Stefon Harris. The bassist cut his teeth, though, as a long-time collaborator of Puerto Rican saxophonist David Sanchez, and it’s in a potent New York scene of post-Latin-jazz heavies that Glawischnig has thrived—it’s partly why McCaslin used the bassist on records like Soar and In Pursuit, which integrate a matrix of Latin and South American rhythms.

Many of his regular cohorts returned the favor when the bassist released Panorama (Sunnyside) earlier this year. Saxophonists David Binney, Rich Perry, and Miguel Zenon (the recent MacArthur "genius" grant winner), guitarist Ben Monder, pianist Luis Perdomo, and drummers Blake, Marcus Gilmore, and Antonio Sanchez all easily traverse the borders of complex postbop harmony and rigorous Latin polyrhythms, regularly finding new mixtures and fusions.

Yet ultimately it’s about finding new platforms for improvisation. Glawischnig takes some gorgeous solos, such as the lyric turn his improvisation embraces on the ballad “Set to Sea,” but more often than not he’s content to lay down that tricky pulse. He composed all nine of the album’s pieces and while none of them really breaks any new ground, they’re all highly functional for the purposes of this band.

Tonight he’ll be serving McCaslin’s sturdy tunes, of course, but he’ll doubtless tackle his typical role with gusto and intelligence.

Today's playlist:

Stan Kenton, City of Glass (Capitol Jazz)
Clipse, Presents: Re-Up Gang (Koch)
Trio Mediaeval, Folk Songs (ECM)
Harry Nilsson, Pandemonium Shadow Show/Aerial Ballet/Aerial Pandemonium Ballet (Camden)
Ian Matthews, Tigers Will Survive (Water)

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