© 2024 WRTI
Your Classical and Jazz Source. Celebrating 75 Years!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Watch the video premiere for Donny McCaslin's "Body Blow"

Tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, in a still from the video for "Body Blow."
Edition Records
Tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, in a still from the video for "Body Blow."

More than any other improvising band now on the scene, the Donny McCaslin Quartet favors a concussive kind of power. Their feral intensity famously led rock icon David Bowie to tap the band for his final album. But McCaslin, an agile and instinctual tenor saxophonist, knew how to dial up the physicality long before the realization of Blackstar, and his band — with Jason Lindner on keyboards, Tim Lefebvre on bass, and Mark Guiliana on drums — has kept furthering and developing it since.

Near the top of this year, I walked mid-song into their set at Le Poisson Rouge in New York, during the Winter Jazzfest. It felt not unlike happening upon a prizefight: the fury in the ring, the frenzy in the crowd. Now that dynamic is about to find release on a new full-length album, I Want More, due out on Edition Records in June.

WRTI is proud to premiere a video for "Body Blow," which was released as the album's first single last year. Directed and produced by Douglas Sloan, it's a (mostly) black and white treatment that intercuts band footage with images of actors in frenetic closeup, delivering a feeling of raw sensory overload. (Pay close attention and you'll spot two uncredited cameos by Josh Jackson, from that Winter Jazzfest hit.)

"I am angry about the state of the world, the inaction amongst people who are in power," McCaslin says in voiceover at the top of the video. "I was just assembling different name options, and I remember when I had a kid I had these Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, you know? And somehow I thought of the punching thing. It's such an over-the-top kind of song, it just felt like a body blow."

"'Journey to the unexpected' is how I’d describe 'Body Blow' in its finished form," McCaslin tells WRTI, by way of further explanation. "The beginning was a session playing free and imagining an exploration of a fast drum and bass vibe. Mark, Tim, and I did one take in L.A., Jason added the layers of sonic wonder that are uniquely his, and David Fridmann took it to another level with his visionary mix."

Donny McCaslin's I Want More will be released on Edition on June 23; preorder here.

Nate Chinen has been writing about music for more than 25 years. He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for The New York Times, and helmed a long-running column for JazzTimes. As Editorial Director at WRTI, he oversees a range of classical and jazz coverage, and contributes regularly to NPR.