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PLUNGE – Dancing on Thin Ice

by Michael G. Nastos

Trombonist Mark McGrain's naturally dubbed ensemble Plunge (not to be confused with the Scandinavian group of the same name) has gone through a few changes since his 1996 CD Falling with Grace. A Boston-based band with drummer Bob Moses, Marcus Rojas on tuba, and bassist Avishai Cohen is long gone, as 2009's Dancing on Thin Ice has no drums, was recorded in New Orleans, and features saxophonist Tim Green and Astral Project bassist James Singleton. There's a spare yet rich sound from this trio, more mischievous and daring, and a need to play freely within certain structured progressive jazz means. You'll hear music that has nothing remotely sounding like a standard, but also fresh, new sounds that have little ties to the Crescent City, or East Coast improvising scene. A slightly angular feel à la Thelonious Monk or Steve Lacy creeps into "Orion Rising," and Singleton's bopping bass lays the foundation out, more pronounced during "Friday Night at the Top." An ostinato blues "Opium" and a folkish "Missing Mozambique" separate them from the other tracks, but thinner structures and fragile lines for the title track, a soul song, "The Praise Singer," or the two-minute swinger "Skickin' Away" — all have their own individual merit. The distinction of this progressive jazz trio is in their ability to play together without any grandstanding, as equals in a complete, whole partnership. Yes, it's cliché to suggest you take the plunge listening to this bold new music — but you should.



All content © 1995 - 2011 Mark McGrain

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