Here’s the interview I conducted with Donny McCaslin, bandleader on David Bowie’s ★ album.
The interview took place on October 31 last year and this piece originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Uncut.
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“How about flying a little more…?”
After DAVID BOWIE’s extraordinary career resurrection with The Next Day, he is preparing to release ★ – an album of “big concepts”. Here, the album’s bandleader DONNY McCASLIN, reveals all about Bowie’s remarkable working-practices, including jazz solos, conceptual feedback and sushi lunches. “He leaves no stone unturned,” we learn.
I first met David through Maria Schneider. I’ve been in her group for about ten years or so. She and David were talking about collaborating. Then she was calling me up, looking for recommendations about different aspects of what they were doing. We did two small group workshops for “Sue [Or In A Season Of Crime)”, with David, Ryan Keberle – a trombone player from Maria’s band – myself and the rhythm section. I recommended the drummer from my band, Mark Guiliana, to play on it. After the first workshop, David came with Maria and Tony Visconti to hear my band play at the 55 Bar, a local spot in New York. The next morning he emailed me and said that he had written a song based on what he’d heard last night and wondered if I interested in recording it. After I picked my jaw up off the floor – he was so polite about it, just so generous in what he said – I said, “Absolutely, love to.” So he sent me a demo version he’d made at home. He had programmed the drum, the bass, he had played the saxophone solo on it. That was “‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore”. Then pretty quickly it was, “How about we do two or three tunes?” Then I think Maria suggested to him, “Why don’t you have Donny’s band do a whole record with you?” That was how it started.