Tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin has a mercurial tendency to evade pigeonholes. Playing in an ever-shifting style that chatters and sings, digging into rhythmic underpinnings or breaking the bonds of gravity, McCaslin continually finds new ways to surprise and enchant. In Pursuit brings back most of McCaslin’s bandmates from his 2006 album Soar for nine original compositions, extending his recent exploration of Afro-Latin rhythms in modern-jazz settings. Several tracks, such as the opening “Brief Tale,” find his horn roaming freely over tight grooves from bassist Scott Colley, drummer Antonio Sanchez and percussionist Pernell Saturnino. McCaslin constantly varies his approach in these outings, moving from relaxed lyricism through perky undulations and into leaping aggression, keeping the level of excitement high regardless of the tempo or overall atmosphere.
McCaslin’s longtime associate David Binney produced the album and also plays alto sax, joining the leader to fashion some finely interlaced duo melodies. In “Madonna,” Binney’s initial ruminations give way to dense scribblings, dovetailing into McCaslin’s own searching, powerful solo. Binney also adds assertive punch to the surging percussion of “Descarga.” Guitarist Ben Monder creates a moody, disconcerted ambience in tandem with McCaslin’s flute in “Sea of Expectancy,” but he also rocks out on the title track, goes acoustic on “Village Natural” and injects a touch of African highlife into “Festival in 3 Parts,” a piece that, like McCaslin, combines a naturally likable exterior with a deeply restless, unpredictably adventurous core.