Donny McCaslin is best known as the saxophonist on David Bowie’s last album, Blackstar. The noted composer and bandleader has released a dozen albums over his genre-defying, Grammy-nominated career.
McCaslin began playing at age 12, and as a teenager, performed in his vibraphonist father’s band in Santa Cruz. By high school, he had appeared multiple times at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
After attending Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship, McCaslin became a sought-after player in New York City. David Bowie saw McCaslin perform as soloist for the Maria Schneider Orchestra and brought in McCaslin’s progressive jazz quartet that came to define Blackstar’s visionary stylistic fusion. As David Hadju wrote in The Nation, “Donny McCaslin was David Bowie’s David Bowie.”
In turn, Bowie influenced McCaslin, who fused alt-rock and jazz on his first album with lyrics, 2018’s BLOW.