Donny McCaslin – Declaration – Sunnyside SSC 1218, 63:44 ***1/2:

(Donny McCaslin, tenor sax & alto flute; Edward Simon, piano & organ; Ben Monder, guitar; Scott Colley, bass; Antonio Sanchez, drums; plus brass section including Alex Sipiagan, Chris Komer, Michael Gilkes, and Marcus Rojas on six tracks (#1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8))

Donny McCaslin is a multi-dimensional jazz saxophonist. After attending the Berklee School of Music, he had had stays with Gary Burton, Danilo Perez, Steps Ahead, and Maria Schneider. He then joined an experimental jazz collective with David Binney, and Scott Colley called Lan Xang, that has remained active. Donny can play many jazz genres, and proof can be found in his latest release on Sunnyside, Declaration. Produced by David Binney and including Colley, McCaslin goes in many directions, with a brass section that provides an anchor for his ventures into “out” compositions. Donny wrote and arranged all eight tracks on Declaration.

M begins with a lovely brass blend before Donny goes off on a tear. Pianist Edward Simon then has several choruses of solo classical chamber music taking the track in a totally different direction before the brass ensemble reappears and Donny takes this intriguing composition out. Fat Cat is much the same, except for the fact that the rhythm section led by Colley and Simon bring a Caribbean motif that sets the tone.Declaration, the title tack, has a fugue opening led by tuba and French horn that Donny then takes in a lovely anthemic sensual direction. Uppercut follows and the brass section sits out, with Colley and Monder taking more prominent roles. Colley’s solo is a highlight. Rock Me has a jazz/rock feel led by Sanchez’ drumming and Donny’s keening runs. But it did little for me.

Jeanina is played by the quintet, sans any other horns. Monder is featured and his solo brings to mind Pat Metheny. Late Night Gospel closes out the CD with some reflective playing by Donny, and a lovely solo by pianist Simon, followed by a bluesy solo from Monder. It is my favorite track on Declaration.

McCaslin’s new CD covers all the bases. Fans of contemporary jazz of any persuasion will find something to interest them in Declaration.

TrackList: M, Fat Cat, Declaration, Uppercut, Rock Me, Jeanina, 2nd Hour, Late Night Gospel

– Jeff Krow