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ClassicsOnline Home » LAN, Xang: Hidden Gardens
This is a gem. Lan Xang is a highly creative improvisational group from New York (although all members were originally West Coasters) that produces music that fascinates, and challenges. I have listened to this CD about 10 times, and it gets better every time. The quartet is:
Kenny Wollesen - drums, percussion Scott Colley - bass, percussion Donny McCaslin - tenor and soprano sax David Binney - alto sax, clarinet
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.
"We were looking for a band name that would not necessarily be associated with Jazz music," saxophonist Donny McCaslin explains on behalf of the group. "We wanted something that wouldn't confine us stylistically and that would be interesting and different." What the group has achieved is not so much music that isn't jazz, but music that represents what jazz should be. Music that is a new creation altogether; innovative, rhythmically charged, and poignant.
Lan Xang is more proof that jazz just keeps getting better. Wollesen and Colley form a bass/drum duo that is among the best I've ever heard. And McCaslin and Binney play harmonies and counterpoint lines that sound rich and full. Add to that some well-chosen sound samples that just seem to fade in from outer space, plus a willingness to blend in atmospheric Eastern sounds and you have a record that is both unique, and a pleasure to listen to and study. Although this group does more than it's fair share of experimenting, which will disqualify it for some listeners out there, it is music that always paints a unique picture of sound, and is never boring.
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