June 25, 2022

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– We planned to do more before he died.

Donnie McCaslin and his band changed their careers after they played on David Bowie’s latest album.

Donnie McCaslin plays at Nattjazz on Tuesday night.
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“I’m so glad I got this opportunity,” McCaslin says with a smile as he drives around Bergen and waits for the Night Jazz party on Tuesday night.

In 2014 and 2015, the saxophonist worked closely with David Bowie on what would become the British rock legend’s latest album, “Blackstar”. It was released on January 8, 2016, two days before Bowie died of liver cancer.

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The album was a huge success, taking first place in the USA, England and Norway, five Grammy Awards and general acclaim as one of Bowie’s best albums.

David Bowie pictured in 2010.

A few weeks ago, in December 2015, Bowie’s musical “Lazarus” premiered in New York, with a title taken from the album’s first single.

– I saw a Lazarus poster when I walked around town yesterday. McCaslin suddenly asks is there any chance I will see him in the theater tonight. But we should disappoint him because the DNS setup was interrupted during the festival.

As for Bergen, he also has two other musicians who were central to the “Blackstar” recording, Jason Lindner on keyboards and guitarist Tim Lefebvre.

– He was actually the leader of a band I played with a lot, Maria Schneider, who was called in to play with Bowie on a song. She was a little confused, but I said critically, “Do it!” , says McCaslin and laughs.

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Incredibly generous

Bowie finally heard an album he recorded in 2012 called “Casting for Gravity,” then attended one of the band’s concerts at 55 Bar Club in Manhattan.

Donnie McCaslin won a Grammy Award for his work on “Black Star”.

– Two days later we had a workshop. David obtained the phone number and email address, and the studio was booked. We initially planned to do two or three songs together, but ended up with a total of 14-15 recordings spread over several sessions, McCaslin says.

Seven of the songs became “Black Star”. Some of the songs from the musical “Lazarus” were later featured in the EP’s “No Plan”.

David was incredibly generous in the studio. He was very present, but he also wanted us to be free in the way we approach songs. The frame we received was so strong that we in no way had to reinvent the wheel, but it was clear that it trusted us, says McCaslin.

You should play more

He was one of the few who knew Bowie was seriously ill, but he speaks of an artist who worked until very recently.

Donnie McCaslin has gone on several mountain excursions in Bergen.

I know many feel that “Blackstar” is a true farewell album, with lyrics about deaths. But at the same time, I know David wanted to record more music. We spoke together in December, and he said we should go to the studio in a month. It does not work.

– Are you also planning to have parties?

– My band was going to be giving a concert series in New York two weeks after “Blackstar” came out, and the intention was to be a private and secret guest on one show. We had decided to play “Lazarus” and “Tis a Pity She Was a Whore,” McCaslin says.

He says there have been many songs recorded, but he doesn’t know if Bowie has time to add vocals or complete the recordings.

– How has your career changed after that?

– I had a good job before that too, but in the next few years the offers fell off. It was a bit predictable, because there aren’t many opportunities like this that you get. In the jazz world, McCaslin says, it’s important to expand the market and reach new audiences.

playing boy songs

On the album “Blow” (2019), he collaborated with several singer-songwriters, including Bowie’s regular bassist for many years, Jill Ann Dorsey.

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– She is still sometimes at our parties. Then we do Bowie’s songs. We have many fans of him in the audience, and it is beneficial for us and them to perform in the right place. It’s not impossible to do “Lazarus” in Bergen, McCaslin says with a smile.

David Bowie was photographed at Bergenhaus Castle in June 2004, which became one of his last ever concerts. Because after that tour, he quit as a concert artist.

He’s also ready with a new album set up with legendary rock producer Dave Friedman (The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Mogwai).

– “Blackstar” gave us a scheme – to combine improvisational playing with writing classic songs. And do it right. We are a generation of jazz musicians who have been influenced by many styles of music, and none of us are particularly interested in booths, says McCaslin and enjoys being able to spend time in Bergen.

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– I’ve played here many times before, and it was arrival, party and departure. Now we have two days off. I go hiking in the mountains, try concerts, find good restaurants. No stress, just fun.

Chosen Cultural Editor

the news Jens Kihl is the cultural editor of Bergens Tidende and brings you the best cases from the world of culture every Thursday.

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