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News & Observer, Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, NC

Plunge - Dancing on Thin Ice (3 1/2 stars)

By Owen Cordle

The sonic potential of Plunge -- trombonist Mark McGrain; tenor, baritone and soprano saxophonist Tim Green; and bassist James Singleton -- is not obvious at first glance. A rather austere lineup, you might say. But factor in the trio's New Orleans roots, and you get a broader message, as expressed in the first word of its new CD, "Dancing on Thin Ice" (Immersion). If the group could march unimpeded by the limited mobility of the acoustic bass, second-line revelers would surely follow.

McGrain, who wrote all the tunes, may have had the late bassist and composer Charles Mingus in mind here and there in his compositions and playing, the latter evident where his trombone suggests the melodic fluidity and expression of the late Jimmy Knepper, a Mingus sideman from 1957 to 1962. McGrain incorporates electronic sounds into the mix occasionally, and one piece, "One Man's Machine," is a solo trombone performance with live electronics.

Green, who plays mostly tenor, has a light, soulful sound that complements McGrain's. With matched tones and similar rhythmic agility, the horns leave the heavy lifting to Singleton, who capably fills the role of both bassist and percussionist. While McGrain's tunes aren't obvious, there are plenty of familiar elements: blues, gospel, bebop, various dance grooves and melodic interplay.



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