DONNY MCCASLIN | London, Rich Mix

With a mass of gadgetry, keyboards and amps, the stage was set for a space-age synth-funk odyssey. The newfound electronic direction of McCaslin’s compositions heralds the maturity of a new age of jazz, reflected in the diverse demographics of the crowd. Older and newer generations alike filled Rich Mix as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival to witness a masterclass.

Donny is well-known as a stellar sideman and collaborator, playing with Maria Schneider, Danilo Perez, Antonio Sánchez and David Bowie (on his last ever album, Blackstar). His latest work, however, proves once more that his original compositions and re-interpretations deserve a place of their own. The addition of his fellow bandmates from Blackstar made this performance truly special and McCaslin’s music perfectly showcased their exceptional talent.

Jason Lindner (keys) concocted totally unique sounds and amazing textures on demand with a mind-boggling array of knobs and buttons. Mark Guiliana (drums) blew the audience away with overwhelming energy and skill in his solos. It’s not really fair to box this music into one genre – each song refuses to fit a mould, with some focusing on contemplative, soaring melodies and others immersing the audience with grungy rock beats and synth harmonies. It has both instinctive groove and intellectual substance, combining complex syncopations with a visceral drive.

Every song, however, seemed suitably epic and the crowd at Rich Mix loved every minute. McCaslin was enjoying himself every bit as much and seemed to be genuinely proud and thankful, letting everyone know several times that he had “been looking forward to this for months”. Skint provided a welcome introduction to the night, with enticing polyrhythms and cyclic sampled sax creating a wave of sound that sounded much larger than the 3 performers on stage.

The Prickle is lucky enough to be travelling to New York and will most definitely be booking tickets to see Donny McCaslin again on 29th Nov at the Village Vanguard. For those missing out, be sure to download his latest album, Beyond Now.

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