Paul Olson reviews them for All About Jazz.
Potter’s frontman role in this band was a significant one, but McCaslin’s much more than adequate here. His show-stopping solo on “Buleria, Solea y Rumba” on Maria Schneider's Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare, 2004) may have cemented his reputation as a tenor solo fireworks technician, but there’s always been more to his playing than building lead-horn drama, and it’s all on display on Meaning and Mystery. Throughout the recording, his lines entwine with and dance around Douglas’ trumpet so deftly that he seems a wizened veteran of the group.
That said, his solo on “Culture Wars” is stunning. But then, so is the tune. Built around a simple horn phrase and eschewing Douglas’ trademark mixed-meter predilections in favor of a more straightforward groove—seldom has Douglas done so much with so little—it’s the best jazz performance this year. Douglas’ trumpet intro, which carries on two minutes into the piece before the theme is even stated, seems to investigate and limn the possibilities of what’s to come and is, like all his playing on this album, deft, sly and full of his trademark crispness and wit. Caine bravely follows McCaslin's solo with one of his own that, without resorting to grandiosity, somehow builds even more momentum as it negotiates the song’s simple but elegant harmonic landscape. It’s a fantastic song.
“Be Love,” “Push Up the Sky,” “Soar,” and “Laid Bare” are extended pieces. Their length, coupled with cynicism-free optimism (just glance at those titles) and epic yearning—plus sweetening touches like Souza’s vocals and the hardly dry production values—could have led to disaster. Records like Soar are often toothlessly bland or annoyingly precious.
Soar is neither. It's very good. This is an important year for McCaslin.