Jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin started playing tenor saxophone at age twelve, and quickly progressed, touring Europe, and participating in the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival’s California All-Star band while in high school. After attending the Berklee College of Music, McCaslin joined The Gary Burton Quintet, with whom he toured for four years.
In 1991, McCaslin moved to New York, working with bassist Eddie Gomez, and then joining the group Steps Ahead, with whom he made the 1995 disc Vibe, on NYC Records. He really began to turn heads, however, with his solo work in larger ensembles, first as part of Ken Schaphorst's Big Band, and then also in the acclaimed Maria Schneider Orchestra, where his performance on the album Concert In The Garden received a Grammy nomination in 2004 for "Best Jazz Instrumental Solo".
Other groups McCaslin has worked with include the pianoless quartet Lan Xang, and a quintet led by the widely lionized trumpeter Dave Douglas, who added McCaslin to his band in 2005.
Thanks to the high profile of the Dave Douglas Quintet, McCaslin has achieved wider praise for the incisive twists and purposeful turns of his emotionally charged solos. But those qualities – along with his sometimes startling virtuosity, and his distinctive voice as a composer – had actually been on display for much of the previous decade, during which McCaslin proved himself a valued sideman on recordings by Danilo Pérez, Luciana Souza, and performances with Tom Harrell, Brian Blade, John Pattitucci, The Mingus Band, and Pat Metheny.
In 2006, McCaslin received a Doris Duke Grant for new jazz composition from Chamber Music America, writing and recording the album In Pursuit, comprises the results of that work. In both 2008 and 2009, McCaslin won the Downbeat Critics Poll for "Rising Star on the Tenor Saxophone". His 2008 release, Recommended Tools, on Greenleaf Music, was in many critics’ top ten lists for jazz record of the year.
McCaslin released the album Declaration on Sunnyside in 2009, which features a brass quartet.
Photo by Andrew Hurlbut
Studies at Berklee College of Music. Recordings on NYC Records, Criss Cross Jazz, Sunny Side, and Greenleaf Music.