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The Sweet Sound



Dancing on Thin Ice

by Nelson Eubanks

Over the telephone Mark was telling me some of his ideas for a new Plunge album; a trio of James Singleton on stand up bass, Tim Green on soprano, baritone, and tenor saxophone and Mark himself -  that is Mark Mcgrain on slide trombone playing music he’d been smoothing out since before any whisper of the Storm. He said they were gonna record in the wooden front room of his house – like the acoustic belly of a small schooner ship – complete with resident white haired colonial French poltergeist. And too, they were going to lay the music down in the Kind of Blue method where you read it and feel it and breathe it out and Blam that’s your take. I wondered about the drums, the drums; no drums in a Big Easy band, no drums in a driving trio in the African heart beat of America? But then I realized and got excited: you see, nothing but good can come from three Jedis of the groove getting together in an old Creole cottage in the 7th ward of New Orleans to make the beautiful sound.

You see, I knew for a straight fact this was the iteration of Plunge after Falling With Grace slid into the CMJ top 20 for 3 ½ months– and too, that Mark had been mining diamond rhythms from the sea shell streets up in his eagle’s nest way back behind the wood shed for some long while. I also knew Tim Green had been all over the great halls and hallowed juke holes of the world soaking up the sound - playing with heavy musicians making some of the great sonic waves of our time. That he is a genius of the light and one of the best saxophone players in New Orleans. That James Singleton is umbilicaled to the source.

What does a rhythm city in rebirth sound like flowing through improvisational jazz masters who‘ve witnessed to tell the tale? Is it a beautiful wave of sound?  Despite the ache?  Because of it?

When I got my copy of Dancing on Thin Ice I quickly pushed play and wasn’t disappointed by the burst of fresh melodic ideas. No drums allows Singleton to become the percussive bass beat pulsing through the lower register with lyrical mellow thick slap thumps. No drums and Tim Green plays soft with translucent solos so you can hear his fingers slipping over the sax keys, his breath, his air turning into magic spells. No drums and Mark McGrain drifts and flies and dips and tucks and soars across the sonic space - and I must admit, I’ve found myself listening to solos over and over looking for answers, hearing light, humming the melodies as I wander through my days.  To me, Dancing on Thin Ice is an old school, throw back, classic, jazz, album where the secret lays in listening to one song right after the other so you can feel the story shift and change and grow as you grow and shift and change. In these hungry commercial times it’s rare to come across an album with 11 good tracks with range but this is it: the real deal. The sweet sound.


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