I had a pleasant surprise yesterday. On a 150-mile highway drive I listened – listened, not had-on-in-the-background – to Jon McCaslin’s CD Sunalta on the Cellar Live label. Four measures into song one — the title track — I felt the same as I do listening to a few Shelly Manne & His Men albums I treasure, when his band included Russ Freeman or Mike Wofford (piano), Frank Strozier (alto sax), Conte Condoli (trumpet), Monty Budwig (bass).
McCaslin’s Sunalta, to my ears, has the spirit of the great Blue Note, Atlantic, and Prestige jazz albums of the late ’50s and ’60s. This is a band record. A band of seasoned players: McCaslin (drums, composer), Brad Turner (trumpet), Phil Dwyer (tenor sax), Tilden Webb (piano), Jodi Proznick (bass).
I’ve known Jon McCaslin through his excellent Four on the Floor blog. And he and I have exchanged an email or two over the years. But Sunalta is the first I’ve heard Jon play, the first I’v’e heard his composing.
His drumming is aces. Very much in the spirit of Shelly Manne and Mel Lewis. I’m not saying McCaslin is a Manne/Lewis clone. His isn’t. McCaslin has his own voice and does a superb job driving the band, shading, supporting soloists, conversing with band members. Excellent stuff. Plus — and this is no small point — McCaslin’s drums and cymbals sound great.
Thank you, Jon. I’m looking forward to hearing more from you and your band members.
— end —