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Donald Paul "Donny" McCaslin (born August 11, 1966) is an American jazz saxophonist. He has recorded over a dozen albums as a bandleader in addition to many sideman appearances, and came to wider prominence when English rock singer David Bowie hired McCaslin's ensemble as his backing band for Blackstar (2016), his final studio album.

Donny McCaslin
McCaslin in Sweden, 2018
Background information
Birth nameDonald Paul McCaslin
Born(1966-08-11)August 11, 1966 (age 52)
Santa Clara, California
Years active1978–present
LabelsNaxos, Arabesque, Criss Cross Jazz, Sunnyside, Greenleaf, SkyDeck
Associated actsKen Schaphorst, Gary Burton, Steps Ahead, Maria Schneider, David Bowie, Ryan Dahle
McCaslin at Aarhus Festival, Denmark 2018

Early lifeEdit

McCaslin was born in Santa Clara, California. His father was a vibraphonist, and he played in his father's ensemble at the age of twelve. He had his own group in Aptos High School which played three years at the Monterey Jazz Festival.[1] He studied under Paul Contos and Brad Hecht in the San Francisco region, both of whom played in his father's group. He played in a number of youth ensembles, including under the band director and music educator Don Keller, and toured Europe and Japan with them; he was offered a full scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, where he enrolled in 1984. While there he was influenced by Gary Burton, Herb Pomeroy, Billy Pierce, George Garzone, and Joe Viola. McCaslin performed regularly in Boston and Cambridge with The True Colors Big Band, run by composer Ken Schaphorst.

Musical careerEdit

Concert at Donostia Jazz Fesstival 2017

In 1987 McCaslin joined Burton's group and toured the world with him for four years. In 1991 he moved to New York City and was a member of Steps Ahead[1] until 1994, replacing Michael Brecker. He also played with the Gil Evans Orchestra, the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band, Danilo Perez, Maria Schneider, and Santi DeBriano. In 1996 he played on Ken Schaphorst's Uprising, alongside John Medeski, Doug Yates, and Uri Caine. The following year he played with David Binney, Scott Colley, and Kenny Wolleson on the collaboration Lan Xang. In 2006 he joined the Dave Douglas Quintet. In 2010 he recorded as a featured soloist on the CD Coming Through Slaughter: The Bolden Legend.

McCaslin performs in New York regularly with Antonio Sánchez, David Binney, Dekel Bor, Scott Colley, and Danilo Pérez. Exile and Discovery, his first record as a leader, appeared in 1998. His early albums were acoustic. In recent years he used electronic effects.

In November 2014, McCaslin played tenor and soprano saxophone on David Bowie's single "Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)". Subsequently he would play saxophone on Bowie's 2016 album Blackstar.[2]

On October 14, 2016, McCaslin released Beyond Now, inspired by his experience recording Blackstar with David Bowie. The album features the same band that appeared on Blackstar - Tim Lefebvre on bass, Jason Lindner on keyboards, and Mark Guiliana on drums. The album includes two David Bowie covers, as well as covers of MUTEMATH, Deadmau5, and The Chainsmokers, plus five original tracks.[3]

Released in October 2018, McCaslin's album Blow included contributions by Sun Kil Moon, Gail Ann Dorsey, Ryan Dahle, Jeff Taylor, Jason Lindner, Tim Lefebvre, Mark Guiliana and Ben Monder. NPR's All Songs Considered called it "exhilarating art rock."[4] The album was awarded New Jazz Album of the Year by JazzJapan.[5]

Grammy nominationsEdit


As leaderEdit

McCaslin in Aarhus, Denmark
  • Exile and Discovery (Naxos, 1998)
  • Seen from Above (Arabesque, 2000)
  • The Way Through (Arabesque, 2003)
  • Give and Go (Criss Cross Jazz, 2006)
  • Soar (Sunnyside, 2006)
  • In Pursuit (Sunnyside, 2007)
  • Recommended Tools (Greenleaf, 2008)
  • Declaration (Sunnyside, 2009)
  • Perpetual Motion (Greenleaf, 2010)
  • Casting for Gravity (Greenleaf, 2012)
  • Fast Future (Greenleaf, 2015)
  • Beyond Now (Motéma Music, 2016)
  • Blow. (Motéma Music, 2018)


With Lan XangEdit

  • Lan Xang with David Binney, Scott Colley, Jeff Hirschfield (1998)
  • Hidden Gardens with David Binney, Scott Colley, Kenny Wolensen (2000)

With Dave DouglasEdit

With The Maria Schneider Jazz OrchestraEdit

With David BowieEdit

With Sun Kil MoonEdit

  • Sun Kil Moon - I Also Want To Die in New Orleans (2019)

As sidemanEdit

  • Bruno Råberg – Pentimento (1992)
  • Steps Ahead – Vibe (1994)
  • Ken Schaphorst Big Band – Purple (1999)
  • David Binney – Balance (2002)
  • Ethan Winogrand – Made in Brooklyn (2003)
  • Hans Glawischnig – Common Ground (2004)
  • Gene Ess – Sandbox and Sanctum (2005)
  • Mathias Lupri – Metallix (2006)
  • Torben Waldorff – Brilliance (2006)
  • Kenichi Doami – Chronicle (2007)
  • George Schuller – Like Before Somewhat After (2008)
  • Alex Sipiagin – Out of the Circle (2008)
  • Gary Versace – Outside In (2008)
  • Torben Waldorff – Afterburn (2008)
  • Dave Lisik – Coming Through Slaughter: The Bolden Legend (SkyDeck Music, 2009)
  • Nathan Edlund – Trip to the Casbah (2009)
  • Julie Lamontagne Trio – Now What (2009)
  • Geggie Trio – Across the Sky (2010)
  • Torben Waldorff – American Rock Beauty (2010)
  • Marshall Gilkes – Sound Story (2012)
  • Hutchinson Andrew Trio – Prairie Modern (2013)
  • Samo Salamon – Stretching Out (2013)
  • Antonio SánchezNew Life (CAM Jazz, 2013)
  • Alon Nechushtan – Venture Bound (2014)
  • Kenny Carr – Idle Talk (2014)
  • Pavel Wlosok Trio – Alternate Reality (2014)
  • Dave Lisik – Machaut Man and a Superman Hat (2014)
  • Enrico PieranunziProximity (2016)
  • Monkey HouseLeft (2016)
  • WinterFisch Quartet – Timeless (2016, Jazz Sick)
  • Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr – Landed in Brooklyn (2017, ACT)


  1. ^ a b Ditzel, Eleanour. "Donny McCaslin: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
  2. ^ Chinen, Nate On David Bowie's 'Blackstar,' Turning to Jazz for Inspiration New York Times. January 5, 2016
  3. ^ Pearce, Sheldon David Bowie's Blackstar Band Announces New Album, Shares "A Small Plot of Land" Cover. Pitchfork. July 30, 2016/
  4. ^ "New Mix: M. Ward, David Bowie Saxophonist Donny McCaslin, Sad Baxter, More". Retrieved 2019-03-13.
  5. ^ "JazzJapan Award 2018". JazzJapan. 102: 007. March 2019.
  6. ^ "GRAMMYs On The Road With Donny McCaslin And Poncho Sánchez".
  7. ^ "Exploring The Jazz Field Nominees".
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-12-01. Retrieved 2014-03-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External linksEdit