Donny McCaslin raised the bar at the Folly Theater on Friday. Receptive members of the audience of about 300 are likely to judge all future jazz performances by the exceedingly high standard set by McCaslin and his three collaborators.
McCaslin, a New York-based tenor saxophonist, keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Jonathan Maron and drummer Mark Guiliana, played two sets of electronica-laced post-bop that made the work of many jazz musicians seem hopelessly passé and stiflingly inhibited.
The group (with Maron of Groove Collective filling in for Tim Lefebvre) became a sensation by providing the core sound of David Bowie’s 2016 swan song Blackstar. A rendition of the album’s “Lazarus” proved that McCaslin’s ensemble could reproduce the sonic attack without studio trickery. They closed the transcendent show with a frenetic reading of Bowie’s “Look Back in Anger.”
McCaslin used a number of effects to manipulate his bruising playing, but an extended unaccompanied solo during “Memphis Redux” indicated that his unadorned tone is also astonishing. Linder’s contributions- an unlikely combination of the electronic funk artist Flying Lotus and Rick Wakeman of Yes- indicated that progressive rock can be surprisingly sexy.
While revelatory, I fear that the decisive concert further diminished my already limited tolerance for cautious, commonplace jazz.
Set list: Shake Loose, Glory, untitled new song, Lazarus, Fast Future, untitled new song, Memphis Redux, Look Back in Anger
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)