October 20, 2014, BY Kathryn Kopchik

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Bucknell University will host a free jazz concert Wednesday, Nov. 5, at 7:30 p.m. in Bucknell Hall with the Donny McCaslin Quartet. Joining McCaslin are Sam Harris, piano; Scott Colley, bass; and Johnathan Blake, drums.

The concert, which is free and open to the public, is part of the continuing Jazz@Bucknell series.

Donny McCaslinJazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin started playing tenor saxophone at age 12, 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, he 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 with his solo work in larger ensembles, first as part of Ken Schaphorst's Big Band and 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 trumpeter Dave Douglas, who added McCaslin to his band in 2005 and with whom he visited Bucknell in 2007.

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 Perez, 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, that comprises the results of that work. In 2008 and 2009, he 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 10 lists for jazz record of the year. His most recent record, 2012's Casting for Gravity, follows on the heels of 2011's highly acclaimed Perpetual Motion, which found him experimenting for the first time with merging his hard-charging acoustic sound with more funk-inflected electrified elements.

The Jazz@Bucknell series presents international modern masters and young visionaries, showcasing the entire tradition of jazz, from standards to the avant-garde, with an eye on artists who continue the innovative tradition of the music with their personal approaches to sound, style and composition.

The fall concert series includes a performance of Duke Ellington's Nutcracker and more holiday jazz by the Zeropoint Big Band on Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts.  

The spring concert schedule includes Mary Halvorson's Thumbscrew Trio on Feb. 4; the Nadje Noordhuis Quintet on Feb. 25; and Linda Oh's Quartet on April 8.