Donny McCaslin, In Pursuit

Britt Robson

By Britt Robson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Like Chris Potter's Lift three years ago (also on Sunnyside), In Pursuit is a deliberate and definitive star turn that vaults its leader from the periphery to the center of the conversation about the best young saxophonists in jazz today.

One of the best young saxophonists around gets his star turn.

McCaslin, who perhaps not coincidentally replaced Potter in Dave Douglas's quintet two years ago, has assembled nine original compositions that capture his profound affinity for Latin rhythms, his buoyant, heraldic tenor sax tone, his piquant horn voicings with altoist David Binney, and his distinctive talent for climaxing already glorious solos with improbably seamless returns to the melody. The result is a tour de force that stays on the balls of its feet for more than an hour.

Among the many highlights are “A Brief Tale,” in which McCaslin shadow-boxes with the rhythm section in a manner similar to Sonny Rollins'Freedom Suite and Way Out West; “Madonna,” which unfolds like a field of prairie sunflowers under time-lapse photography; and “Village Natural” and “Festival in 3 Parts,” which rumble and shriek with avant garde fervor without ever losing their equilibrium. The supporting players — guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Scott Colley and percussionists Antonio Sanchez and Pernell Saturnino in addition to Binney — stoke the synergy without ever replacing McCaslin in the spotlight for too long.

True to its title, In Pursuit is relentless in its quest for greater recognition for a horn player and composer whose time has come.