Monday, March 22, 2010

Plunge: Contemporary Chamber Jazz with Deep Roots

The world of contemporary improvisation in New Orleans has some bright lights. For example there is trombonist Jeff Albert and his group. I have covered some of his recent music in various reviews. There are others.

Another most promising gathering is the trio known as Plunge (Immersion) whose new album Dancing On Thin Ice currently spins on my player. This is a drummer-less trio. It's Mark McGrain on trombone, Tim Green on various saxophones, and James Singleton on the upright bass. Now when I think of such a grouping the early Jimmy Giuffre trios come to mind. Giuffre pioneered a form of chamber jazz in the '50s that gave arranged and improvisational weight to each instrument, could swing and be subtle at the same time.

In some ways Plunge is a direct descendant of that pioneering ensemble. But McGrain, Green and Singleton are fully contemporary at the same time. The emphasis is on varied and contrasting compositional frameworks, well arranged, for the players to hang improvisational structures onto. There are bluesy numbers, those that walk along, riff vehicles, ballads and some free-er moments. Each player makes a strong contribution. James Singleton is a very solid pivot point much of the time but he also shares in the melodic exchanges in nice ways. Mark McGrain and Tim Green are firmly rooted players, accomplished and vibrantly communicative.

Dancing On Thin Ice gives you a program of music with one foot in tradition and the other foot stepping outwards. It's enjoyable music, something quite accessible to anyone who appreciates well thought-out yet spontaneously direct chamber jazz. Recommended.

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