I should have known to expect something out of the ordinary when I recently walked into one of Cleveland's classier jazz joints on a Monday evening to find that the band was set up on the left side, an area usually reserved for smaller groups. Furthermore, tables were not jammed clear up to the front of the stage, as is typical. But then things got underway and it all made perfect sense. Bassist Lonnie Plaxico and his New York ensemble turned up the decibels to a level far from the norm for this quaint restaurant. Drummer Nathaniel Townsley and Plaxico rocked the house with a funky and intricate mélange (to steal the title from his new disc) that mesmerized a crowd filled with both younger folks and some elder jazz fans.
At the heart of the group’s sound were the advanced electric keyboards of George Colligan, who emulated a wicked B-3 organ with his Korg CX-3. Tunes like “Red Light District” and “Squib Cakes” featured swift and furious heads that were executed with lock tight precision. On “T.O.P,” tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland would throw in a sagacious quote from “A Love Supreme,” hinting further at the Coltrane influence that had been heard in his earlier ballad feature, “Too Young To Go Steady.” Trumpeter Alex Norris’ burnished tone was brought to the spotlight on an unusual version of “My Funny Valentine,” while Colligan’s take on Chick Corea’s “Matrix” turned the standard into an up tempo frenzy that capped off the second of two fabulous sets.