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DownBeat **** (Four Stars)

By Dan Ouellette

   What is it about bass instruments that makes them so appealing?  Part of the allure has to do with the fact that you not only experience auditory sensations, but your entire body feels the sonic vibrations.  Then there are those twilight hues of blue and indigo that evoke melancholic memories.  Whether embodied in the honks and blats of a bass clarinet or the bass stops of a Hammond B-3, the lower the pitch the more gutsy and arousing the music seems to get.
    So it's no surprise that Plunge, an unorthodox, bass-oriented quartet, should unveil such a remarkable debut.  Falling With Grace, at once soulful and vivacious, is a refreshing plummet into the deep end of the tonal spectrum.   Boston-based trombonist/composer Mark McGrain aptly demonstrates that he understands the potent power of the bass frequency as he leads his ensemble - tuba player Marcus Rojas (of Henry Threadgill's Very Very Circus and Spanish Fly fame), drummer/percussionist Bob Moses and double-bassist Avishai Cohen - into this low-registered fling spiced by the merrymaking revelry and percussive buoyancy of New Orleans Mardi Gras and Brazilian Carnival.
    With all band members taking their share of rhythmic responsibilities, Plunge delivers grooves as wide as a house, fat drones that rumble window panes and pulsing bass beats that simultaneously undergird tunes and drive them.  While McGrain takes the bulk of the solos, floating lyrical 'bone lines above the earthy cadences on such melodic beauties as "The Mist" and "Trick Of The Light," Rojas also gets to stretch on several tunes and Cohen plucks catchy percolating rhythmic motifs.   But it's Moses, with his flirting drumming excursions and accelerating tempo-shifts, who propels many of the pieces, including the funky, swinging opener "Wagdanz" and the speedy closer "Running, Running."
    Other highlights include a ragged-edged, foaming-at-the-mouth romp through "Dog" and the vibrant, booty-shaking cooker "Beneath The Wheel," featuring McGrain's siren-like trombone wails.



All content 1995 - 2011 Mark McGrain

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