October 19, 2019

Artist Feature: The Donny McCaslin Trio

Recently, Enjoy CT Live had the pleasure of interviewing Donny McCaslin, talented saxophonist of The Donny McCaslin Trio.  Read about his experiences as a jazz musician and what he finds inspiring:

Donny McCaslin Trio EnjoyCTLive

The Donny McCaslin Trio.

Who was your first musical influence growing up and why?

My father, Don McCaslin, who’s a pianist and vibraphonist in Santa Cruz, Calif. Was my first influence. My parents divorced when I was young so I saw my father once a week. He’d pick me up in the morning and drive me to downtown Santa Cruz, where he had a gig from 12-5pm. After bear claws and milk I’d help him set up his gear and he’d then set up a chair for me to sit on while the gig was going. Once I got older and started walking around on my own I’d still spend the majority of the day listening to my father’s band, Warmth. I eventually started playing saxophone and started working with him at age 16. It was a wonderful experience. We played a variety of Great American Songbook tunes, Jazz classics, Cal Tjader-esque Latin jazz and some soul numbers.

When was the first time you realized you were a musician?

I think early on I was captivated by playing the horn and knew quickly that I wanted to improvise and play jazz. It was a terrific means of expression and I’d say by age 13 I knew this was all I wanted to do vocationally.

Define your idea of a successful performance.

When I feel connected to the music and to the audience and it feels like the music is flowing. The best for me is when I feel there’s a myriad of choices before me and can stat relaxed and choose freely and feel the audience is right there with me along for the journey.

What genres of music are you most accustomed to performing?

Jazz and Jazz related music. I also did a lot of Salsa, R&B, Blues, and other types of folkloric music over the years. I have learned a lot from the music of the America’s.

What is your favorite album and has it influenced your art?

John Coltrane’s classic “A Love Supreme”. I have a deep love for that record and the primary influence has been that it’s such a serious piece of work. Coltrane’s playing is so focused and intense. I always strive to play my very best no matter what the circumstance and I feel it stems from that record.  I thought if I play with integrity and passion it will resonate with people.

What is the most exciting venue you have performed at?

Tough to say as I’ve been touring for 26 years. I do remember playing at Jazz in Vienne years ago with Gary Burton. We opened for Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock. It was a thrill. Also, A gig at the Montreal Jazz Fest. Comes to mind. Also with Gary Burton ad it featured Pat as a special guest. I was so young and couldn’t believe I was standing next to these guys on stage and playing to a huge audience. The Monterey Jazz Fest. Is where I grew up playing in the youth group there and going back now and playing always stands out. A particular gig with Maria Schenider stands out in my memory…from about 5 years ago I’d say.

Where do you look to find new and exciting jazz news?

I do get Downbeat and enjoy it. Also, various online email newsletters are great. I enjoy CT Live!

Who has been your mentor throughout your career?

Different folks at different periods but the most consistent one would be David Binney. He’s produced a lot of my recordings. Is a great saxophonist and composer.


Donny McCaslin EnjoyCTLive

McCaslin performing live.

View Donny’s Discography here.

Check out Donny’s tour dates here.