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ClassicsOnline Home » LAN, Xang: Hidden Gardens
By Glenn Astarita
All About Jazz
By Micah Holmquist
Like its unique moniker, the band Lan Xang conjures music that is mysterious, exotic and original. The talented quartet aims to take jazz to a new level, weaving together acoustic and electric elements in some very modern compositions.
Lan Xang is a quartet of New York musicians dedicated to playing cutting edge, original music. The foursome¡¦s dense attack, led by the dual saxophones of Donny McCaslin and David Binney, explodes with a real punch that is informed by their genre-bending sensibility. Meanwhile, bassist Scott Colley and Kenny Wollesen¡¦s drum support are downright fierce. With their collaborative methods, there is a daring energy to the rhythmic and harmonic progression. The music is unpredictable and even dangerous.
Since its inception in 1994, they have performed throughout New York and toured internationally. The group name Lan Xang, which comes from 14th Century East Asian history, was an ancient empire that originated from what is now Laos and ruled much of the Indochina region for over 300 years. ¡§The Land of A Million Elephants¡¨ was what the region was called. The name in Laos carries associations of cultural kinship among people that bridged local isolation and divisions. Since the concept behind the quartet is to incorporate anything into the music regardless of genre, the Lan Xang moniker relates quite appropriately. It was bassist Colley who first came up with the name.
The group previously released a debut 1997 CD on Binney¡¦s own Mythology Records¡¦ label. Meanwhile, saxophonist Donny McCaslin has his own Naxos Jazz release, Exile And Discovery (86014-2), and played on the Ken Schaphorst Big Band¡¦s Purple (86030-2). Together with Colley and Wollesen, they form one of New York¡¦s most exciting and innovative group of new jazz artists.
Ironically, all four are originally West Coast natives. McCaslin was raised in Santa Cruz, California. He has performed and toured with Steps Ahead, Eddie Gomez, Gary Burton, Danilo Perez and Mike Stern. David Binney is a co-founder of the funk/hiphop fusion group Lost Tribe. His past work includes recording with Medeski, Martin and Wood, Uri Caine, Ed Simon, Lonnie Plaxico, and Drew Gress's Jagged Sky, in addition to his own three CDs Point Game, The Luxury Of Guessing and Free To Dream.
Kenny Wollesen also grew up in Santa Cruz. He has performed and toured with John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Tom Waits, Jim Hall, John Scofield, Marc Ribot, and Sean Lennon. Scott Colley started playing in L.A. clubs since he was 13. He studied with Charlie Haden and Fred Tinsley, and moved to New York in 1988. He has played with Carmen McRae, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Jordan, Roy Hargrove, Art Farmer, John Scofield, Ravi Coltrane, James Newton, Fred Hersch, Joe Henderson, Joe Lovano, Mike Stern, Andrew Hill, Phil Woods, and Jim Hall.
Visit Don McCaslin's website at www.donnymccaslin.com
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LAN, Xang: Hidden Gardens