Falling With Grace: A Review
Plunge (plunj) v. 1. To thrust or throw forcefully into a substance or place. 2. To cast suddenly, violently, or deeply into a given state or situation. 3. An alternative, groove driven, jazz quartet featuring trombone and alphorn, tuba, double bass, drums and percussion.
If you picked 3, you're on the money! With their debut album, Falling With Grace, Plunge cast improvisatory music into a new state. The CD is a melding of the influences of each member, and the final creation will both satify and challenge the listener.
The instrumentation -- trombone, alphorn, tuba, double bass and percussion -- takes the listener by surprise. Both Mark McGrain and Marcus Rojas explore the wide variety of timbres offered by their instruments. Avishai Cohen takes the double bass through many different uses -- solo, bass line, and percussion, while the groove hangs together through the hands and feet of Bob Moses.
Before listening to the CD, I visited their web site to get a feel for what was in store. The site offers soundbites of the CD, as well as upcoming performance dates and general bios of the group. However, nothing prepared me for the sounds once the CD started.
The opening track, Wagdanz, pulls the listener into the music, giving just a taste of things to come. A New Orleans beat and bass groove starts, then muted trombone takes the melody. Mark's style is smooth and polished, with just enough rough edges to keep it from sounding canned. Every track on the CD pulls in a variety of influences, but like a great painting, you have to look very hard to find the individual parts.
The overwhelming aspect of this album is that it is an ensemble performance, not four soloists going at the music in the same room. You can hear and feel the interaction of the musicians as they work through the changes of each chart, each player feeding on the work of the others. A great example is in 394 where the solo line and the bass line intertwine to the point of asking, "am I playing bass or are YOU?
As for the "out-there" component -- I would describe this CD as X-Files meets jazz. Hard edged, with tons of New Orleans and hip-hop influence. Check the opening of Beneath the Wheel. That's attitude.
Trying to describe the contents of this CD is almost like trying to tell what a banana tastes like -- the best way to handle either question is to say "here ya go -- try a taste!"
As for a recommendation -- buy it! It's worth the money, and if you're looking for some challenging listening, this is it! Now, is this a CD I'd listen to every day? Nope. But it is surprising -- it seems to show up more and more in my CD player...
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