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Donny McCaslin Quartet Performance

 Cleveland's famed Nighttown was a tour stop in late February for tenor saxophonist Danny McCaslin. The Wednesday evening crowd was plentiful and eager to hear the latest musical offering from this New York City stalwart.

Near the end of McCaslin's first set, he confessed that he's been changing a lot of diapers for the past six months and it felt really good to get out and PLAY. And play he did, for the opening piece, "Energy Generation," saw the band come out with all of the pent-up fury of a Mike Tyson roundhouse upside the head. The nasty groove of this intense piece was driven home by bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Mark Guiliana. Over their sledgehammer propulsion, McCaslin quickly launched into one of his trademark solos of Promethean proportions. The only imagery that came to mind was that of a flamethrower. How he maintains the lung power for such extended workouts is a marvel of human nature. Jason Lindner picked up the torch with a Fender Rhodes solo that harkened back to Chick Corea's sound while with the 1970 edition of Miles' band; volume knobs turn up to the max so that the sound was distorted nearly beyond recognition. But to sound contemporary as well, he had an array of effects to really push the sound over the edge. Whew!

Things settled down a bit for the next three tunes included in the first set, but not by much. "Perpetual Motion" was meaningful bass 'n drums fun as Lefebvre and Guiliana were in a lockstep like a Kremlin military parade. Lefebvre commenced an a cappella start to "Memphis Redux" which McCaslin said was written with Cannonball Adderley and Donny Hathaway in mind. This piece had a lazy funk like a hot South Carolina afternoon. After another grinding Linder keyboard solo, the band got as loose as a chronic shoulder dislocation problem. Gumby music! McCaslin wrapped things up with a sax cadenza that seemingly went on forever. The set-ender, "L.Z.C.M.", was dedicated to Led Zeppelin and Christian McBride and featured a crunching, effects-laden bass solo.

The second set contained all new music that will soon be recorded for an autumn CD release. "Stadium Jazz" sounded like its namesake, with a staccato, over-driven delivery that was more rhythmic than melodic. Surprisingly, "Gritty" was less so than its title suggests and syncopated lines from all involved ruled the day on the tune "Tension." "Henry" (written for McCaslin's six month old son) had a hauntingly beautiful melody and Linder took his solo straight, without effects. The last piece of the evening is as yet untitled. A complex chart, it again amped up the energy level as the band went out with a flourish.

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