by: Ron Wynn
JazzTimes, February 1, 2004
Lonnie Plaxico is a tremendous bassist and session man. His eighth album as a leader spotlights his brilliance in several areas, from gently, yet substantially backing vocalists to working both alone and with large combos. Plaxico uses Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes" as a set piece to demonstrate his impressive solo bass facility, delivering a stunning melodic embellishment, then a dazzling improvisation working off it. On "'Tis So Sweet," a traditional gospel tune, he smoothly glides underneath vocalist Aneilia Lomax and pianist Arene Lomax, punctuating and extending their leads while turning the song into a majestic concluding work.
The disc's small-group pieces tend to be either intimate ballads, such as the poignant cover ......
by: John Kelman
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Bassist lonnie Plaxico hasn’t had it easy establishing himself as a leader. While he has worked with a cross-section of jazz artists including Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon, Wynton Marsalis and Diane Reeves, it has been during longer stints with Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and, in particular, as Cassandra Wilson’s musical director that he has established himself as an artist of note. While his seven previous recordings as a leader have all been worthy of attention, it is with his latest release, Rhythm and Soul that he finally delivers on his promise as a leader. Clever, contemporary writing with many twists and turns, a strong team of players and beautiful production, make Rhythm and Soul his strongest outing to date.
Plaxico has, this time around, managed to assimilate his diverse influences, from post-bop to M-BASE to fusion into a singular sound. Billy Kilson, known mainly for his work with Dave Holland over the past seven years, is one of but a handful of drummers who can play it all, from the greasy irregular-metered funk of the title track, to the tender reading of “Don’t Explain” to the fusion-meets-M-BASE of “The Time”. George Colligan, on piano, organ and synthesizer, shows why he is one of the serious up-and-comers on the New York scene today. Last heard with Plaxico on lonnie Plaxico Live at the 5:01 Jazz Bar, Colligan is a capable soloist and completely sympathetic accompanist. Co-producer and percussionist Jeffrey Haynes adds just the right amount of colour; never obtrusive, working well with Kilson while driving the rhythm on his own on the programme-closer, the gospel piece “’Tis So Sweet”, which features guests Aneilia Lomax and Arene Lomax on vocal and piano respectively.
With horn players including Jeremy Pelt and Alex Sipiagin on trumpet, tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, and tenor/soprano saxophonist Marcus Strickland, Plaxico’s seven original pieces are a far cry from the traditional head-solo-head tradition for jazz improvisation. Instead, the compositions are extended forms; he has an uncanny knack for placing the beat in unusual places, making straight-time feel like irregular meter, as in the homage piece, “Weather Report”.
Known primarily as a double-bassist, Plaxico also gets the chance to pull out the stops and prove his mettle on electric; his solo on “The Time” is as impressive as anything Victor Wooten has recorded; and his solo reading of Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eye’s” demonstrates, in just over three minutes, his command of a variety of traditions.
Rhythm and Soul is Plaxico’s first recording for UK-based Sirocco Records, a label that has, over the past five years or so, emerged as a fresh new voice in contemporary jazz with a small, young, but significant roster of artists. One of the fundamental focuses of the label is to allow its artists full freedom to pursue their muse, and by doing so with Plaxico, they have given him the opportunity to create his best effort yet.
by: John Fordham
The Guardian, Wednesday October 1, 2003
In jazz, the difference between a record and a gig can baffle tourists from the pop world. The contrast is particularly plain in the case of the brilliant US bassist and bandleader lonnie Plaxico, playing in London this week.
Plaxico has just released a new album, Rhythm and Soul, and it is the kind of fusion set that gives this sometimes predictable and opportunistic idiom a good name. It features a sensational band, and the repertoire is remarkably wide-ranging - suggesting one of Miles Davis's later funk outfits, or even a more traditional ensemble playing standards. But in this week's live show, the emphasis is on fast, high-energy music, frantic with percussion and buried under blizzards of notes. It's impressive, in a unicycling-through-gunfire kind of way - but it isn't half of what lonnie Plaxico has in his head.
Plaxico is joined by tenor-saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, trumpet player Alex Norris, pianist Helen Sung and drummer Kenny Grohowski. The music hangs on blisteringly quick postbop trumpet/sax ensembles that give way to full-on jamming from all the performers, against the barrage of snare rolls, galloping bass-drum patterns and cymbal fireworks from Grohowski.
Coltrane's dry tone and thoughtful construction are often overwhelmed. Norris, however, fires shards of white-hot sound through it, demonstrating elegant control of long, high tones. Plaxico's acoustic basslines roar with urgency. And there is considerable improvising strength in the succinct and free-flowing work of Helen Sung: earthily swinging on organ, and with much of McCoy Tyner's mix of percussive chording and tumbling, linear playing on piano.
Delusions represents the band at its most manic. Always Crazy, a track from the album, does more to balance busy urgency, thoughtful improvising (from Coltrane and Norris) and an engaging funk groove. Although the predominantly hard, bright sound of the band broadens into richer ensemble harmonies later in the set, it is a more one-dimensional experience than Plaxico's famous sensitivity to group dynamics in other people's bands might have implied.
When I first put this on, I had to checkwasn't lonnie Plaxico the bass player on Tony William's great late-eighties quartet (Mutants on the Beach!)? He wasn't, but this group owes a lot to that sound, with its churning, propulsive drive, and it's no insult to say that Plaxico manages to do it with only two drummers (I saw Williams' group live, and Tony Williams was in fact 2.7 drummers). But there's another influence going on here--dare I say it--of course I dare, it's Frank Zappa in his Joe's Garage phase, with the twisty, impossibly complex rhythmic patterns that he could only make work in the studio. If you can tolerate the lyrics, check out the instrumental section of Keep it Greasy on Joe's Garage, Volume 2, then listen to Senór Silver on this CD. Hear it? C'mon, you gotta hear it, let's listen again. Marcus Strickland is the only player on here I recognize, and he manages to solo on top of all this weirdness, but it's tough to keep up. However, it's fun enough just listening to the band crank through the changes.
by: John Kelman
The M-BASE Collective, when it first emerged in the80s, championed a style that was about rhythmic unpredictability that was nevertheless mathematical in its precision, and a new way of looking at harmony that differentiated it from the post bop language of the young lions of the time. Bassist lonnie Plaxico has the advantage of having worked seriously in both camps, and with his latest live release, Live at Jazz Standard he continues to straddle the line, although he clearly tends to lean towards the M-BASE side. The result is a mixed programmed; while the talents of the members of Plaxico’s group are never in question, the overall set is something of a barrage on the senses; exciting to be sure, but tiring after repeated listens.
It would have been captivating to have been in the audience on January 29, 2003, when this recording was made at New York’s Jazz Standard club. Plaxico, who alternates between acoustic and electric bass, and drummer Lionel Cordew, presents a rhythm section that is complex and energetic. But that is, perhaps, the problem with the groups approach. The rhythm section is so frenetic at times that while there is a certain gut-level excitement in hearing them navigate such difficult passages with ease, one is sometimes more impressed by how well they play, and less than taken at what they play.
Thankfully there are moments of respite. Following the set openers, an M-BASE meets Lee Morgan version of The Sidewinder and Plaxico’s Jumping Jacks Plaxico takes it down about fifty notches for a straightforward reading of the Cahn/Chaplin standard Dedicated to You And while there is a funky vamp section in the groups radically reharmonized version of Summertime it is more relaxed, giving the listener a chance to catch breath. You Dot Know What Love I is also given a faithful rendition.
The rest of the set runs at an energetic pace. Plaxico’s Shorter Take is a clever homage, inspired by Shorter sadly overlooked album Atlantis. Along Came Benny references Benny Golson’s Along came Betty Cachas Dance manages to blend Cuban rhythms with the more logical exactness of Plaxico’s and Cordew’s approach while Senor Silver pays tribute the Horace Silver in a frantic funk that, frankly, owes little to its source.
The players are exceptional; saxophonist Marcus Strickland, at twenty-four, demonstrates a maturity beyond his years, as does trumpeter Alexander Norris; pianist Marin Bejerano manages to navigate the complicated changes with confidence; Cordew is, quite simply, a powerhouse of polyrhythms; only Kahil Kwame Bell is super fluouthe proceedings are busy enough without the added percussion.
But as high quality as the performances are, once one gets past the immediate excitement, one is left feeling strangely empty. Live at Jazz Standard shows that great playing is not enough; there has to be a connection to give a recording lasting value and, sadly, there is little to connect with on this date.
by: Michael Bailey
Bassist lonnie Plaxico is perhaps best known for his associations with Greg Osby and M-Base, and for being the long-time bassist for Cassandra Wilson. He was the leader of several recordings made for the now static Muse label in the 1980s and90s. On January 29, 2003, Plaxico was leading an energetically funky sextet at New York City Jazz Standard. The pieces populating this live disc are closer to Plaxico’s Art Blakey experience than to his M-Base involvement. That is to say that this is superb contemporary hard bop. The spirit and association of Bu is big, very big. Plaxico’s group mimics the greatest of Blakey Band setups with a trumpet/tenor front on a standard piano trio platform (with added percussion).
Festivities are kicked off appropriately with a blue-flame “Sidewinder.” Trumpeter Alexander Norris pays proper homage to composer Lee Morgan without descending into mere imitation. But it is Strickland who solos first, more Hank Mobley than Wayne Shorter. Then Norris surfaces with a suitable funky solo. For the more standard-minded, if “Sidewinder” did not whet your appetite, there is the most original “summertime” since Gene Harris version with Ray Brown on Bam, Bam, Bam. Here, the chestnut begins as a unison ensemble piece resembling a big band. Then, the mood and personality changes to a nuclear funk counterpoint bouncing off of a contemporary filter. “You dot Know What Love Is” features a plaintive Norris trumpet recalling Chet Baker.
Plaxico’s own compositions are provocative and thematic. “A Shorter Take” is a wink at Way Shorter, written in his beautifully abstract style. “Along Came Benny” nods to Benny Golson and his “Along Came Betty.” All are smartly composed and played, making this a completely enjoyable recording.
by: Gerard Cox
After a brief stint with Blue Note, lonnie Plaxico quietly released this fine live date in 2002 on his own label, PlaxMusic. It consists of highlights of two sets he cut with his band (featuring trumpeter Alex Norris, tenorist Marcus Strickland, pianist George Colligan, and drummer Nat Townsley) earlier that year while at the 5:01 Jazz Bar in Columbus, Ohio.
The recording quality leaves something to be desired, but the disc compensates in the form of some of the most exciting ensemble jazz recorded live in recent memory. The music is simply bashin' from start thru finish; certainly the youngbloods on board have something to do with the high energy. So too of course though does the very frenetic, hyperfunkified nature of lonnie Plaxico's music; laser-fire horn parts blast over rumbling ostinatos and the completely pungent drum fills of Nat Townsley (Zawinul Syndicate).
The tunes included on this live date read like a "best-of" from lonnie's two previous records as a leader, Emergence (Savant, 2000) and Melange (Blue Note, 2001). Staple set pieces "Delusion" and "Red Light District" are executed with panache and a palpable take-no-prisoners attitude. Indeed, Lonnie's crew blows hard on each and every track, and if you could possibly fault anything here, it's that stretching out is a given—thereby three tracks on the record stretch over 10 minutes apiece.
Trumpeter Alex Norris is especially brilliant in his tight air-channel hijinx here. He crafts solos that have both serious "jazz" rhythmic conviction, and yet an almost baroque sense of articulation. Also worth note is Marcus Strickland, who does a most sincere justice to John Coltrane's styling of "Too Young to Go Steady" in a ballad feature. (Strickland evidently didn't know when he played his solo here that he was too young to be sounding this mature.)
Lonnie Plaxico has been leading his own band regularly since 2000, and—whether you like his music or not—it's undeniable that through his writing and selection of musicians he's developed a rather individualistic yet clearly jazz-indebted band sound. When so many musicians are content to play 4/ 4, bop 'n' standards all night long, this isn't something to take lightly. For fans of Plaxico's recent music, this is must-have stuff. The man himself has always maintained that his music is really more of a live phenomenon, and here that hypothesis is confirmed in grand style.
This record is a worthy companion to the Plaxico band's other two records but also holds up as one of the better live jazz records of the past year.
by: Don Williamson
Lonnie Plaxico is one of those in-demand bassists, like Peter Washington or Dwayne Burno, who shows up on album after significant album, but, like most bassists, stays in the background. Attempting to gain radio play in the early 1990's, Plaxico led some of his own CD's, but fell into the smooth-jazz format in an effort to attain record-sales success. It didn't work. As Plaxico says, "I wasn't playing the music that reflects my experiences, and I still wasn't making money." Indeed. Plaxico ended up paying the difference in musicians' fees and other expenses to produce the early Muse recordings.
With such a diverse background under his belt, and at the successful buttonholing of Blue Note executives by Cassandra Wilson, Plaxico not only has released his first CD with the legendary label, but more importantly, he is playing his own music. Having worked with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Wynton Marsalis, Jack DeJohnette, Von Freeman and Dexter Gordon, one would expect Plaxico to come from a more traditional background--until one remembers his early work in funk, the true basis for M-Base, and his adoption of the electric bass as his first instrument.
Melange thus consists more of an funk beat than a hard bop one, George Colligan's organ deepening the groove unmistakably. Plaxico refers back to his early interest in the funk bands involving horns, such as Tower Of Power, Blood Sweat And Tears, Kool & The Gang and Earth Wind & Fire. Indeed, Melange includes one of the original Blood Sweat And Tears members, Lew Soloff, who definitely makes the rest of the opportunity to blow through five of the tracks and reclaim some of the attention that is his due, especially on the title track. According to Plaxico, Soloff was impressed by the difficulty of the charts that Plaxico wrote and showed them to other trumpeters in wonder and in determination to meet the challenge.
Plaxico's debt to those groups of the late 1960's and early 1970's is obvious in the fact that he makes one exception when he developed the repertoire for Melange: the inclusion of Tower Of Power's "Squib Cakes." Plaxico wrote all of the other tunes. "T.O.P.," with its lurching soufulness, is named, of course, after that sixties/seventies band-deserving-more-recognition, according to Plaxico.
Ever the generous leader, Plaxico creates a total-group sound and lets the horns, for the most part, lead the development of the tunes, while Plaxico's ever-present pulse, the basis for the tunes' energies, underlies it all. While all of Plaxico's earlier CD's were recorded in a single session, Melange involved two recording dates and two bands, the Pelt/Strickland group substituting for the Soloff/Ries configuration on the last six tracks.
A little funk, a little M-Base, a little gospel, a little Latin, a little balladeering, a little Miles, a little bop, Melange, in spite of its complexity, reveals just a hint of the talent and experiences that lonnie Plaxico has gained through music in the twenty-five years of his professional life. At the age of forty, Lonnie Plaxico has paid his dues, and now it's time for him to mold what he has learned into an infectious and unique whole.
by: Gerard Cox
The fine bassist lonnie Plaxico, while still somewhat obscure to many, has now been a hard-working sideman on the jazz scene for some twenty years. He has quietly compiled an impressive resume via Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey, Von Freeman, Dizzy Gillespie and Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition band in earlier years, and M-BASE comrades Greg Osby, Steve Coleman, Geri Allen, and Cassandra Wilson in later ones. Plaxico has now acted as the musical director for vocalist Wilson for the past 6 years, and has made important contributions to bands fronted by Geri Allen and Greg Osby moreover. In short Plaxico has been a relied-upon sideman for major leaders in jazz and continues to lend the solid and rich grounding of his bass to a variety of ensembles, notably ones which emanate from the M-BASE concept of which he was a part of along with Osby, Wilson and co.
And yet, Plaxico's own career as a leader has been latent, still waiting to come into full blossom through these years. He put out a few records in the earlier 90s but by-and-large in his own admission they were geared towards getting radio time rather than making an individualistic statement.
Things took a decided turn for Plax's career as a leader in the year of 2000 though. With the band concept that was introduced on the aptly- named record "Emergence" (Savant, 2000) there was a certain omen that Mr. Plaxico was not to be counted out. Indeed, there was a clear signal that he was going to have something vital and different to say after all- as the leader of a rather dynamic young band.
In "Emergence" the sound introduced by Plaxico was marked by both an energetic groove that was broken up by more melodic statements, and a unique arrangement concept that featured staccato, punchy melodic brass lines intersecting with pulse-driven ostinatos played by the rhythm section. All of the songs tended to have a lot of changing time signatures, segways into different feels and contrasting refrains. In fact, Plaxico's music was shown to be an exercise in contrast; the groove never got complacent before the dashing horn section would rush in to wake it up with some high- octane lines. Likewise, the more melodic segments were not played out to the point that one lost sight of the fact that- underlying was still a definite pulse, a definite groove. Moreover, it shouldn't go without saying that this was very "tight" music- tightly arranged and tightly compressed within the grooves. Plaxico maintains that "It's all strictly arranged and very demanding. So if you're not a good reader or you don't have any chops, you're not going to be able to play this music."
In any event, it should be no surprise with the success of this sound on the previous record, it has been largely carried over onto this one- "Melange." Indeed there is great continuity between the two records, and for those actually familiar with the 2000 record, Melange is quite nearly comparable- only different in a couple of negotiable ways.
Melange is a record that is probably geared a little more towards reaching a larger audience. This is not to say it is dilluted, nor appreciably less worthwhile than the prior record; only that it has some higher production values on board and that the groove factor is a bit more palpable.
Lest one be given the impression that this is some kind of "smooth" record or is simply another Plaxico effort geared towards getting airplay though, please forgive the writer for leading you to this conclusion, because MELANGE is far from smooth. Indeed it is about as challenging as any groove-based music one is going to find. This concept that Plaxico has going is a "fun" listen and yet is obviously quite technically-oriented and therefore, is also intellectually engaging. It is a rare "sound" that can combine both of these two traits; music like this however is testament to the fact that jazz seems to be able to do this more readily than many other music genres. It's also a testament to Lonnie's distinctive vision however.
As with the prior record there are fine, mostly younger musicians on board here. The cast has changed a bit this time around, not for any worse though. Rather than Don Braden, we have either Tim Ries or Marcus Strickland (a very promising up-and- comer) on tenor. And where Moran was the main keyboard/piano operator on the last record, it is George Colligan at the helm here(and who plays some very smokin' BX3 organ). Jazz fans who like to pick up "the first recorded performance of..." will want to know about one Helen Sung, the Brooklyn native who is known for her fine playing in sessions at the Up-and-Over cafe on Flatbush Avenue. She is on board for 5 cuts at the keys.
Another difference with this record is that the repertoire is actually a bit more varied than on the previous record. For example (and perhaps arousing suspicion that this record might in fact be "contemporary" in some way) there is a tune written in the style of Tower of Power, and a tune taken from the T.O.P book itself (updated through Plaxico's band sound of course). Another tandem: there is a tune dedicated to Miles Davis- "Miles 2" (which isn't particularly evocative), but then there is a tune "Darkness", which actually conjures up Miles' music in some real way. "Darkness" is probably the most straight-ahead tune on the record, a ballad that is dedicated to the impression Plaxico had of Dexter Gordon's sound, and which features the subtle muted playing of young Jeremy Pelt.
Other tunes which are noted are "Windy City", which is perhaps the outright funkiest tune on the agenda, and "Paella", which displays in good form the Latinesque capacities of Plaxico and his crew. It's a great little Latin ham.
"Short Take" is marked by a slashing vamp that then launches into a long melodic head, and it is probably the best example of the core sound of this band; high tension in the melody reading, then a certain release through the solos while a groove asserts itself readily.
Oftentimes the best advertisement serving a musician towards getting onto a larger label is a record cut for a smaller label that caught the biggie's eye. lonnie Plaxico seems to have been able to take full advantage of this way in the door, because evidently the folks at Blue Note thought high enough of his last record- Emergence, that they opted to sign Lonnie onto the label. Indeed, Lonnies "Emergence" record must have sold him in because the concept that was there is still completely intact on this record. Recording with Blue Note did not cramp his style- just tightened the production values a bit and shortened the tracks (not to any serious extent). Perhaps owing to this production, this record sounds better in recording quality than the other.
Sound quality a plus or not, "Melange" is a record which sounds very polished and should wear well with both a more traditional jazz audience and the younger, groove-hungry generation that is looking for some soul from their music. And to reiterate, it captures that elusive compromise between groove and mental stimulation as crisply as you're going to get it.
Plaxico has a good thing going here- may it prove not only artistically worthy but reasonably popular also. This music is certainly the kind of appeal to a wider audience that the Jazz community need not be less than proud of. And on that note, go Lonnie go! You're doing a good thing here.
by: Charles Sudo
Lonnie Plaxico's 2000 release "Emergence" (Savant) was an apropos title. The album saw Plaxico trulyrise from the considerable shadow and weight of his duties as musical director for Cassandra Wilson to put out one of the best contemporary jazz albums of 2000. It was an amalgam of styles: the hard driving rhythms of Brooklyn's M-Base collective; New York-style melodies fused with the atonal horn screeches of Chicago's South Side; grooving funk. "Emergence" was the musical equivalent of breaking ceremonial ground.
With his Blue Note Debut, "Melange", Plaxico has built the house and it's open to the public. Bold and full of fire not seen in the haunting music Plaxico builds with Wilson, "Melange" is an urban collision-the musical metaphors of loitering under street lights 'til dawn and still making it to church on time; players hooking up at the bar after a gig; women falling for the same old come-ons; the general hustle and hectic pace of New York at any given moment.
The rhythm section anchors everything down on "Melange", which isn't surprising since these same guys are also Wilson sidemen. On "Melange" they really cut loose. Cordew pounds on the skins like the second coming of Dennis Chambers on "Squib Cakes", "Short Take" and the title track, but gives the songs "Darkness" and "Sunday Morning" enough space for the horn work of Jeremy Pelt and Marcus Strickland to color the songs beautifully. Jeffery Haynes spices the song "Paella" with some wonderful percussion. Lew Soloff and Tim Ries compliment the off-kilter time signatures of "Patois" and "T.O.P." with funky outbursts of their own.
Through it all is Plaxico, shifting from acoustic bass to electric bass with unnerving ease and no loss of mastery, content to just lay back and keep the music firmly rooted. It is this willingness to stay in the background that separates Plaxico from most bandleaders and makes him the ideal choice as Wilson's right-hand man. "Melange" is jazz that pushes the stylistic envelope to the point of ripping; one eye on the past as the future is just around the corner. If more albums come out like this, the world would be a better place.
by: Charles Sudo December 4, 2000
lonnie Plaxico has an awe-inspiring jazz pedigree. The Chicago native cut his musical teeth at the hands of such Jazz luminaries as Von Freeman, Sonny Stitt, Chet Baker, Steve Coleman, Jack DeJohnette, earning a reputation as one of the most solid bassists in jazz.
In the 1980's, Plaxico held the bottom for Wynton Marsalis' band; later, he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. It was with Blakey that Plaxico began to spread his wings as a leader, a trait that Blakey tried to instill in all his sidemen. The time with Blakey served Plaxico well in his current capacity with singer Cassandra Wilson. His myriad influences of blues, jazz, urban funk, and hard bop meshed seamlessly with Wilson's smoky contralto and country/folk leanings. It should be no surprise that Wilson eventually tapped Plaxico to be her musical director, a position he proved he deserved with his work on Wilson's tribute to Miles Davis, "Traveling Miles".
Earlier this year, Plaxico came out from the shadows with "Emergence" (Savant Records), one of the most solid modern jazz albums of the year. Produced by Wilson, "Emergence" is a musical tale formed in smoky clubs, amongst city bustle, underneath halogen streetlights. It's songs have their roots in Brooklyn's seminal M-Base collective and the soft instrumentation of Wilson's best efforts on Blue Note ("Blue Light 'Till Dawn", "New Moon Daughter").
Plaxico anchors the rhythm with fellow Wilson sidemen, drummer Lionel Cordew and percussionist Jeffery Haynes. The canvas layed down by Plaxico, Haynes and, Cordew allows saxophonist Don Braden (Wynton Marsalis group), trumpeter Ralph Alessi (Ravi Coltrane) and pianists Larry Lunetta and Jason Moran to paint pulsating horn blasts, blistering heyboard runs, and subtle shading by Braden.
Recorded in one day, songs such as "Red Light District", "Delusion", and the title track sound
as thought they are being played in some uptown club at three a.m. The songs are framed by interludes featuring Plaxico and Haynes, most notably "oji (the gift bearer)" written for Haynes' son, and "sokoni (from the sea)" a loose jam that finds Plaxico masterfully popping the bass strings throughout some lightning fast scales. Overall, "Emergence" is a bold testament to the creativity of an artist that was allowed to blossom at his own pace. We as jazz music fans are all better off for it.
June 15, 2000 By: John MacCalkies
Chicago-born bassist Plaxico has one of those onomatopoetic names that hints how he plays his instrument. Tall and handsome with a shaven head, he looks like a basketball player, and slaps and plucks the bass strings with slam-dunk confidence. His somewhat staccato phrasing clearly influences his composing style. The originals on his latest CD "Emergence" (Savant Records), such as "Red Light Districe" and the turgidly titled "Transformation" and "Equilibrium" all have relentlessly punctuated lines that bludgeon the ears. After a stint with Blakey's Messengers, Plaxico became a key player in the Brooklyn M-Base scene, which explains the compact density of tunes like "Inner Voice," though the track momentarily opens into an R&B stench-out courtesy of tenorist Time Hegarty, and show cases Plaxico's body-popping electric bass. The CD's producer, Cassandra Wilson, may well have suggested the bass and percussion interludes that provide respite from the edgy tech-nicalities of the rest. Ironically, "Emergence" may be Plaxico's forum for getting his rocks off beyond duties as musical director for Wilson, whose mellifluous meandering is the antithesis of this vibe. The Joe Henderson-like"Libertarian" is the cut that grabs me among the sixteen that populate "Emergence." It may be the most conventional, but begins with a choppy phrase that smolders more effectively than the in-your-face stuff. Plaxico tips his hat to Larry Grey, Eddie De Hauss and Bill Yancy, all bassists with strong Chicago connections, and this will be a more approachable homecoming for him (he was last here at Sym-phony Center with Wilson). Expect a tough N.Y. sextet playing challenging charts with infectious zeal.
June 2000 By: Chris Jisi
On his fifth solo outing, Plaxico combines all his influences into a sharp, focused statement that keenly displays his electric thumb chops as well as his straight-ahead side. On tracks such as "Emergence" and "Red Light District" Plaxico's slashing sax/trumpet melodies ride his upright's broad strokes and Lionel Cordew's funk backbeat.
June 2000 By: John Murph
The title of bassist lonnie Plaxico's newest and fifth album, Emergence, is a bit misleading considering his noteworthy playing with legends like Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon and Dizzy Gillespie; his immeasurable contributions to the early developments of M-BASE; and, more recently, his appointment as musical director for Cassandra Wilson's touring band. But after first listen, you quickly realize that Emergence is a most fitting title, because it exhibits a bold con-fidence and unflinching vitality that was lacking on his previous albums.
"Well, with those other records, I was thinking a lot about airplay," explains Plaxico. "I was thinking about pleasing the record companies, because they think a lot about airplay. But I noticed that I was still not making money, and I was never really satisfied with those records. So I decided to do what I'm really feeling and just go for it." And it's apparent that Plaxico's musical impulses are very in sync with a lot of other musicians in the post-Motown bop generation. Although the record demonstrates his assuredness with bebop, it also superbly culminates his R&B, funk and jazz-fusion sensibilities in a way that doesn't pan-der to any particular school of thought. In short, Emergence is a very now record. "From playing with Blakey, Dexter and Dizzy, and just listening to those records, I know that I can't mess with that," contends Plaxico. "Even if you sit down and transcribe all those parts and solos [to play], it still ain't going to sound like it was in 1958. Much of Emergence illustrates Plaxico's burgeoning talents as a composer who's wise enough not to disregard the music of his own generation. For ex-ample, Plaxico's wonderfully funky "Red Light District," which is based on the changes of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale," owes as much to hip hop's manner of reassembling old material as it does to jazz's legacy of writing compelling new tunes out of old show tunes. "I'm taking advantage of all the things that I've experienced as a musician, and hopefully that's going to make the difference between me and other musicians."
January 12, 2000 By: Ben Ratliff
The bassist lonnie Plaxico writes cerebral, piano-like music made of fissured melodic lines laid unevenly across time grids. It's marked with the tartness and hardness of Brooklyn jazz from the 1980's, with funk as a basic ingredient if not always a defining one; he was a member of that young school, as were Steve Coleman and Greg Osby. But then there were other flavors as well in his group's early set at Sweet Basil on Friday night. His set list - much of it drawn from a new album on High Note records, recorded with a different cast of musicians - flicked through different styles of black popular music, juxtaposing brain-tickling, attenuated ideas with others that were slick and gut-punching. This was a gig at which the audience cheered once when a musician played something trickily interior and again minutes later when a pumping gospel strain started up. The rhythm section was the pivot in these changes: Mr. Plaxico plays stubby notes that lend themselves easily to funk, and the drummer Lionel Cordew and the pianist George Colligan both hit heavily. Jeffrey Haynes, on congas and occasionally playing Indian tablas, added extra layers to reinforce whatever the music's identity happened to be. Teodross Avery, on tenor Sax, played the vocabulary of rhythm-and-blues. Mr. Colligan was the widest-ranging musician of the night, going deep into McCoy Tyner's rhythmic and harmonic language as well as playing organ and a bit of dreadful, anachronistic synthesizer. The music had energy, but sometimes too many notes were flung around. A counter-weight to that tendency was the trumpeter Lew Soloff, who burned through the clutter: his tone was fat and strong, and in several solos he kept returning to extravagantly long notes, which drove the tension up as the band grooved around him.