Year on, Bowie remembered as engaging until end

Agencies | Updated: 2017-01-05 07:59

Year on, Bowie remembered as engaging until end

David Bowie screams into the microphone as he performs during a concert in Vienna. [Photo/Agencies]

When David Bowie walked unassumingly into a cozy New York jazz club to hear Donny McCaslin play, the saxophonist admits he wasn't well-versed in the rock icon's vast discography.

Bowie, who had a vision for the rhythmic underpinning of what would become his final album, met McCaslin in person a week later and soon emailed him to propose a collaboration.

Blackstar, Bowie's 25th studio album, showed the legendary rocker experimenting until the end, crafting a style of hard jazz as his voice duels with the saxophone of McCaslin, an artist who has pushed the boundaries of electronica in jazz.

Blackstar was released to wide praise on Jan 8, 2016, Bowie's 69th birthday. Two days later, he stunned the world when he died after an undisclosed battle with cancer.

"It's been a year like none other for me," McCaslin says at a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village. "I was so happy to see the critical acclaim, particularly for David. It was all so wonderful. And then he passed away and I was just devastated emotionally."

In October, McCaslin and his band released their own album, Beyond Now, which was inspired by Blackstar. But he still struggles to listen to Blackstar, saying he is "still processing the feelings around it".

Affable but with clear emotion when discussing Bowie, McCaslin had partied in high school to the rocker's disco-pop Let's Dance, but otherwise knew little of his work.

After he signed on for Blackstar, the 50-year-old California native listened to Bowie classics but soon stopped, realizing Bowie had chosen him for his own sound.

"I had an email exchange with him about it and I said something like, 'Hey, I'm checking out some of your history.' And he said, 'Oh, what are you listening to?'"

McCaslin listed some of Bowie's most famous tracks such as Life on Mars, Space Oddity and Changes.

"He said something to the effect of, 'You know, that's older stuff. I'm into some different stuff now.'"

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