Lonnie Plaxico: Live at the 5:01 Jazz Bar (2003)
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 giventhereby 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, andwhether you like his music or notit'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.
Visit Lonnie Plaxico and PlaxMusic on the web at www.lonnieplaxico.com
Track Listing: Red Light District; Emergence; Delusion; Too Young to Go Steady; Inner Voice; Squib Cakes
Personnel: Lonnie Plaxico- bass. Alex Norris- trumpet. Marcus Strickland- tenor. George Colligan- piano. Nathaniel Townsley- drums.