Donny McCaslin Trio | Green Mill | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Donny McCaslin Trio Recommended Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Fri., Oct. 10, 9 p.m. and Sat., Oct. 11, 8 p.m. 2008

He first arrived on the scene in the late 80s with Gary Burton’s band, but in the past few years New York saxophonist Donny McCaslin has been breaking out in a big way—both as a member of the Dave Douglas Quintet and as a bandleader on two records for Sunnyside, where he applies his plush, muscular tone to a highly original fusion of masterful postbop and deftly executed Latin and South American rhythms. The recent Recommended Tools (Greenleaf Music) might be his most exciting statement yet, even though it uses the familiar saxophone-trio format—McCaslin doesn’t try anything radical, but the sparse setting makes it easy to hear just how dramatically he’s improved his game. Supported by the explosive, empathetic rhythm section of bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Johnathan Blake, he tears into the tunes—some flinty, some tender, but all his own except Billy Strayhorn’s “Isfahan”—with clear gusto, his almost breathless explorations of harmony always carried by the forceful melodies of his solos (rather than the other way around). He works through the changes like a pearl diver pushing through ocean currents—except he never comes up empty-handed. Recommended Tools is one of my favorite records this year. —Peter Margasak

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