Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone; Jason Lindner: keyboards; Tim Lefebvre: electric bass; Mark Guiliana: drums; David Binney: synth; Nate Wood: guitar; Jeff Taylor: vocals.
Widely acclaimed saxophonist Donny McCaslin returns with a personalized project of his authorship after participating in David Bowie’s Blackstar.
McCaslin reunites his Fast Future quartet, whose members - Jason Lindner on keyboards, Tim Lefebvre on electric bass, and Mark Guiliana on drums - were also crucial in the English pop star's lattermost album, and adds a few influential guest musicians to play on selected songs.
The nine tracks of Beyond Now intelligently combine a variety of variables that catapult McCaslin to the vanguard of the modern jazz.
The opening tune, “Shake Loose” pulses with hypnotic rhythmic chops and feels simultaneously urban and futuristic. With strong influences of pop-rock, jazz, and electronic music, the quartet proliferates a penetrating tension that remains elevated until its release through expansive harmonic progressions and the attractive melody of the chorus.
A comparable approach is used in the melodious and patiently-driven “Bright Abyss”, another fantastic original that quickly connects to our senses through a sober, alert, and provocative instrumentation. The emotional grandeur brought into its final section, which is magnified by voices, has become McCaslin’s signature over the years.
Having worked with David Bowie must have been a great honor for these musicians. Grateful for the opportunity, they've agreed in the recording of two of his songs: “A Small Plot of Land”, featuring Jeff Taylor on vocals and Nate Wood on guitar, is a depressive chant whose inaugural regular beats gain a stronger perspective as Guiliana introduces richer drumming maneuvers; and “Warszawa”, which is strongly anchored in Lindner’s obscure interventions, becoming a suitable prop for McCaslin’s infatuations.
The quartet dabbles in ambient-electronic allures through the addition of Deadmau5’s “Coelacanth 1”, in which the quartet attempts to describe the beauty but also the dangers of a distant planet, and Mutemath’s “Remain”, a soulful blend of electronic, pop, and gospel that left me in a state of inebriant ecstasy.
“Glory” only reinforces the bandleader’s dexterity as a composer and improviser, at the same time that features Lindner in a beautiful solo piano instance. The intensification of the closing harmonic cycles brought in more of the saxophonist’s swirling explorations.
McCaslin’s sound and ideas remain fresh and original, and Beyond Now stands a few steps ahead of the present time. As a pioneer of this type of fusion, he solidifies the present by keeping an eye in the future. After all, he’s a jazz giant, a reputation founded on his own merit.
05 – Bright Abyss ► 08 – Glory ► 09 – Remain