Donny McCaslin Group Recommended Soundboard

When: Fri., Feb. 24, 9 p.m. and Sat., Feb. 25, 8 p.m. 2012

Powerhouse saxophonist Donny McCaslin continues to explore new turf on last year's electric Perpetual Motion (Greenleaf), borrowing from funk, soul, and jazz fusion without falling prey to their cliches. His backing band gives the music a steamrolling, polyrhythmic wallop: thick, driving electric bass from Tim Lefebvre, alternately spacey and propulsive Fender Rhodes from Kneebody's Adam Benjamin and Uri Caine (who sits in on a few tracks), and slinky, hard-hitting percussion from Antonio Sanchez and Mark Guiliana (who take turns on drums). The serpentine tunes were built to sustain their bruising attacks, but McCaslin's plush yet steely tenor steals the show; he radiates supreme confidence as he navigates the elaborate contours of his compositions with muscle and grace. McCaslin's talent has been apparent ever since he joined Gary Burton's band in the late 80s, and his curiosity and range have redoubled in the past decade—especially after he hooked up with trumpeter Dave Douglas, with whom he played in Chicago two weeks ago. I'm hard pressed to think of other horn players working within the jazz tradition who can routinely deliver performances as astonishing and Herculean as McCaslin's—and even better, he always uses his prodigious energy in the service of a greater musical purpose. Tonight he leads a fine quartet with Lefebvre, Benjamin, and Guiliana. —Peter Margasak

Price: $12

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