“A lot of questions arose when David Bowie unveiled “Blackstar,” the 10-minute title track of his new album, as a music video in November. What was the meaning of the clip’s sci-fi surrealism? What had inspired its ominous lyrics? And, perhaps more practically, who were these musicians helping to shape its gnarly but limber style?
One of those questions, at least, is answerable. Mr. Bowie, an elusive rock star whose music has been as famously changeable as his image, enlisted the Donny McCaslin Quartet, a rugged jazz-rock combo featuring Mr. McCaslin on saxophones, Jason Lindner on keyboards, Tim Lefebvre on electric bass and Mark Guiliana on drums. And for all of “Blackstar,” stylized as ★, Mr. Bowie plugged right into the intensely responsive metabolism of the band, opening an unlikely new door in his nearly 50-year recording career. The album is due out on Friday, his 69th birthday, on ISO/Columbia.
After the revamped rock snarl of his 2013 album, “The Next Day” (Columbia), Mr. Bowie was determined to seek inspiration elsewhere. Tony Visconti, his main producer and collaborator since “Space Oddity,” from 1969, said that along the way, they had admired how Kendrick Lamar’s album “To Pimp a Butterfly” stood both within and outside hip-hop, especially in its relationship to jazz.“