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Donny McCaslin: The Way Through

Since the early ’90s tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin has been a member of a loose collective of talented and creative young artists on the cutting edge that includes alto saxophonist Dave Binney, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Kenny Wollesen. They previously documented their genre-busting chemistry on CD under the name Lan Xang. Along with pushing the envelope in that more experimental context, McCaslin has also been a potent and reliable sideman in far more inside situations for such bandleaders as vocalist Luciana Souza and the Maria Schneider Orchestra. On The Way Through, his third CD as a leader, McCaslin blends his inside and outside sensibilities into one sumptuous and satisfying package.

McCaslin makes judicious use of alto flute, bass clarinet, marimba and steel pan alongside his signature tenor-alto blend with Binney, and the arrangements are quite adventurous. The music runs the gamut from forcefully swinging free-bop romps (“Break Tune”) to pan-global exoticism (“San Lorenzo”) to gentle lyricism (“The Way Through”) to the kind of spacious kind of freewheeling improv pieces that Lan Xang favored in performance and on its recordings (“What Remains”). Drummer Adam Cruz, clarinetist Douglas Yates, flutist Anders Bostrom and Souza further assist McCaslin in this excellent outing.

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