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Hartford Courant

by Richard Kamins

Dancing on Thin Ice - Plunge (Immersion Records) - In a year chock-full of great trio recordings, here's a unique group from New Orleans. Plunge, led by trombonist Mark McGrain, also features the great Crescent City bassist James Singleton (Astral Project and a slew of others) and saxophonist Tim Green (Herbie Hancock, the Neville Brothers, Peter Gabriel.) For those expecting typical New Orleans funky jazz, you'll be surprised by the many and varied directions this music goes in.  McGrain ,who wrote all the material on this recording (the group's second but first with this lineup) raises the ante by not employing a drummer yet the music, thanks to the muscular playing of Singleton, has, at times, a lot rhythmic excitement.  The results remind somewhat of the music clarinetist/saxophonist Jimmy Guiffre made with his Trio in the late 1950s, the one with trombonist Bob Brookmeyer and guitarist Jim Hall.  There is subtlety to these pieces, many have a bluesy underpinning and the solos rise and fall easily atop the groove.  Green's sweet tone on tenor is sensuous and yearning on "Life of a Cipher" - McGrain goes in a totally different direction with his spot, weaving harmonics, slurs and smears into his lines.  "One Man's Machine" is a "solo" piece for the trombonist that utilizes electronics to overdub lines and distort the horn.  Nice blues-gospel feel on "Missing Mozambique", with strong solos all around.  There's definitely a parade feel on "Jugs March In" but the piece lasts less than a minute.  That leads to "The Praise Singer", with melody lines that have the saxophone and trombone weaving around each other amidst the feel of a them by pianist Abdullah Ibrahim.  Green switches to soprano for "Orion Rising" and his sweet-tones phrases fly above the energetic "walking" bass lines.

    Mark McGrain is wise to keep all but 2 of the tracks under 7 minutes - the music allows enough time for thematic development and intelligent solos. Kudos to James Singleton for his great rhythmic bass work so that one never misses the drums. The music created by Plunge on this CD grows with each successive listen and is worth your attention.  For more information, go to and/or



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