Mar 31, 2015
As Jazz stretches itself a number of different directions, one of the most intriguing is the integration of electronica into the jazz repertoire and sound. No greater statement as to how this can be effective exists than the work of Donny McCaslin, and his longtime bandmates Jason Lindner (keyboards), Tim Lefebvre (bass), and Mark Guiliana (percussion). In what other band is the bass player called "the DJ of the band?" Where else is the drummer so uniquely a part of the sound that McCaslin has said that "this record is a drum solo," and yet you often strain to find a traditional drum break?
The Grammy-nominated Casting for Gravity kicked open the door to this sound in a big way, and Donny’s new CD, Fast Future, takes it to another level. In addition to the sounds, textures and beats that the band brings to its music, McCaslin has wisely chosen tunes from electronica pioneer Aphex Twin and up and coming band Baths (the alter ego of L.A.-based electronica artist Will Wiesenfeld) as jumping off points for improvisation. The results are always exciting and frequently moving.
Saxophonist/composer/producer David Binney, McCaslin's longtime friend, collaborator, and basketball partner, is the “fifth member” of the quartet. Months before he set foot in the studio for the project, McCaslin consulted with Binney and the two shaped a vision for Fast Future. "I can't overstate the significance of Dave's contribution to this record, " McCaslin says. "It was a real partnership. He was never more of an influence on a record than he was on this one."
Straight-ahead jazz fans should not worry about an album of bleeps and blorps – this is mature music, a logical synthesis of the craft these musicians have been hard at honing, an unexplored crossroads between jazz and electronica with virtuosic musicianship.
Everyone in the band is busy with multiple projects. Lindner is in demand constantly and has his own band Now Vs Now and its large ensemble spin-off, Breeding Ground. Guiliana joined with pianist Brad Mehldau to form the electronic duo project Mehliana and founded the independent record label Beat Music Productions, which released two of his projects last year. Lefebvre joined the Tedeschi Trucks Band, perhaps the hardest-working band in this business, and finds himself constantly on the road.
McCaslin guested on the David Bowie/Maria Schneider collaboration, "Sue"; sat in on Alexa Thana’s debut CD; and had a key part in an all-star woodwind section in the recording of Ryan Truesdell's Gil Evans Project’s Lines of Color.
Podcast 474 is my conversation with Donny, where we talk about the new CD, how he blends nontraditional jazz into his sound, and what kind of music he has been listening to of late. Music selections include ”No Eyes”, "Love What is Mortal” and "54 Cymru Beats" from Fast Future; “Can’t We Talk It Over” from Ryan Truesdell's latest Gil Evans Project live CD Lines of Color, and the David Bowie/Maria Schneider collaboration, "Sue (or in a Season of Crime," available on Bowie’s latest compilation CD Nothing Has Changed.