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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 '80s and '90s. On January 29, 2003, Plaxico was leading an energetically funky sextet at New York City's 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 suitablee 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 don't 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.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.