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He was part of the crowd surrounding Wynton Marsalis’ jazz revival in the late ‘80s, yet bassist Lonnie Plaxico has been seen in the spotlight far too little during the past decade. Yet, with a resume that includes work as a musical director for Cassandra Wilson and an inclination for the genre-bending grooves of the M-Base movement, Plaxico is in a singular position to be chameleon-like in his versatility. That may have something to with the approach and title of his first release as a leader in some time. But Melange is far from being a mixed bag trying to show all the sides of a musical personality without concern for coherence. Instead, the strength of the original material and formidable supporting cast help Plaxico make things ring in a vital and gratifying way.
Tunes like the title track and “T.O.P.” offer a new take on the polyrhythmic groove that Steve Coleman brought to the fore in the ‘80s, that lineage also including Dave Holland (and his subsequent ensembles following Coleman’s tenure with Holland’s band). Then a bit of Latin fire comes our way with “Paella,” not to be outdone by the sanctified spirit of “Sunday Morning” or a tip of the hat to a jazz legend via “Miles II.”
Three supporting talents also make appearances worthy of notice. Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt seems to be a rising star in the mold of Nicholas Payton, with a bold and vibrant sound. And equally impressive are Tim Ries (who creates great interest with his rough-and tumble approach) and George Colligan (coming into his own as an exciting new voice on the Hammond B3).
Track Listing: Squib Cakes, Melange, Darkness, Short Takes, Miles II, Paella, Sunday Morning, Beloved, T.O.P., Patois, Windy City
Personnel: Jeremy Pelt - trumpet; Lew Soloff - trumpet; Marcus Strickland - tenor saxophone; Tim Ries - tenor and soprano saxophones; George Colligan - keyboards; Helen Sung - keyboards; Lionel Cordew - drums; Jeffrey Haynes - percussion