August 6, 2009


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Donny McCaslin, Declaration
Sunny Side Records, Aug. 11

I can’t say that an acoustic jazz artist has ever spoken to me like this before, and when I say speak, I mean, like, speak, like talk. A new-breed aiming to breathe iTunes-age life into the boppy jazz you’ve been hearing for the last however-many decades, McCaslin allows his tenor sax to honk, flutter and filibuster like an exotic bird trying to imitate the conversations it’s heard in McCaslin’s corner of New Yawk, this when it isn’t busy working the blocky type of Brilliant Corners-era Thelonious Monk logic puzzles that are cool but tend to bum out the average Joe Martini trying to chill. Not that the album’s a paean to Monk, don’t misunderstand; maybe some dumb-klutz play-by-play will give you the idea, from opening tune “M”: reflective Walmart-chill -> small-band swing -> Coleman Hawkins breeze -> Monk -> heavily sedated piano building into creepy, sort-of-nuts piano -> fade out on the swing part. Probably won’t make the poles shift on your earth, but McCaslin’s gold-star rep as a solo hack isn’t for nothing, savvy? BE.W.S.