For more than two decades, protean saxist and composer Donny McCaslin has relentlessly expanded his musical purview in a variety of ensemble settings, both as a sideman to Dave Douglas, Maria Schneider and David Binney and as the pilot of his own diverse groups. The tenorist’s tenth album, Casting for Gravity, released in October, takes his foray into the electric sphere on 2011 LP Perpetual Motion one step further, openly drawing influences from electronica composers Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada and Venetian Snares.
“Stadium Jazz,” a titular paradox given the genre’s historic marginalization, rewrites that very history with a performance worthy of a stadium’s applause. Searching horn and synth lines carry drummer Mark Guiliana’s ferociously funky extended solo: exuberant, syncopated, cymbals a-thrashing. The persuasive anthem is a contemporary version of Miles Davis’s “Nefertiti,” on which the horns traded roles with the rhythm section and the drums were given center stage. On the band’s cover of Boards of Canada’s “Alpha and Omega,” a cyclical processed horn riff lulls you into a blissfully ambient ignis fatuus, before a dub-inflected rhythm team beguiles with fractured entrances of increasing horsepower.
The frenetic “Tension” feels like a hallucinatory jaunt through an M.C. Escher painting: A pointedly stagnant motif collapses, expands, then parades through McCaslin’s watertight, perfectly disjointed interplay with Guiliana, pianist Jason Lindner and electric bassist Tim Lefebvre. When the quartet plays the Jazz Standard this week, its tightly composed, genre-splintered, synth-fueled mayhem will undoubtedly delight.—Ian Gibbs