Just a few weeks after David Bowie passed away at the beginning of the year, the New York jazz collective led by saxophonist Donny McCaslin that played on the late icon’s final album, Blackstar, added a haunting cover of his 1977 instrumental “Warszawa” into their live repertoire during a residency at the Village Vanguard. “We were pretty raw with emotion at that time and ‘Warszawa’ matched the way we were feeling,” McCaslin tells Rolling Stone. “It struck the right tone and offered a cathartic moment for all of us.”
The group’s rendition of “Warszawa” is one of the highlights of McCaslin’s upcoming album Beyond Now, which they dedicated to David Bowie. The band, which includes bassist Tim Lefebvre, drummer Mark Guiliana and keyboardist Jason Lindner (all of whom played on Blackstar) along with guitarist Nate Wood, also cover Bowie’s 1995’s tune “A Small Plot of Land” in addition to Deadmau5’s “Coelacanth 1” and Mutemath’s “Remain.” The rest of the disc, which hits stores on October 14th and is available for pre-order now, features McCaslin’s original songs.
“David allowed Blackstar to be what it was going to be regardless of how people might have categorized it,” McCaslin said in a statement. “More than anything, it was his fearlessness in crossing musical boundaries and genres in his music and life that inspired the approach I’m taking in Beyond Now. I am indebted to Bowie for showing me the risks and rewards of going for your uncompromising musical vision.”
The group is in the middle of a cross-country tour that culminates in late November with another Village Vanguard residency, where it’s likely they’ll continue to perform “Warszawa.” “The song plays itself and I feel we’re just serving the composition to the best of our abilities with the sentiment and feeling of the transformative experience of having collaborated with David on the Blackstar recordings,” says Lindner. “Performing this work has served as a bridge between what we do and what he has done.”