By Annie Reuter
David Bowie’s final album Blackstar pushed boundaries for the late singer, who decided he wanted to incorporate experimental and modern jazz elements into his music. In a new interview with The Guardian, Bowie collaborator and saxophonist Donny McCaslin discusses what it was like working with the music icon in his final days.
“There’s so much emotion,” McCaslin says of Bowie’s death. “It’s devastating. We had this amazing connection and then he was gone.”
In an interview at 55 Bar, a Greenwich Village jazz club where Bowie first heard McCaslin and his band in 2014, the jazz performer discusses working on Blackstar and recalls the day Bowie watched him perform for the first time.
“I was definitely nervous,” the saxophonist says. “I glanced up and saw where he was sitting. I just tried to keep myself grounded and not think about it. But the pressure was on . . . It wasn’t a watered-down version of what we do. Afterwards Bowie said: ‘Wow, that was really loud!’”
Later, Bowie emailed McCaslin and invited him to take part in his next album. He also put his trust in the saxophonist and his band.
“He set the tone from the beginning,” he says. “He told us: ‘Whatever you hear, I want you to go with it.’ He said ‘great’ to everything.”
Adds McCaslin: “For me to be associated with him is really special. I don’t think that negates anything I’ve done prior, or what comes in the future.”