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West Side Stories

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 24, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

West Side Stories is the second release on plaxmusic" Lonnie's label. It's a reflection of the music Lonnie Plaxico absorbed from growing up in Chicago, where jazz musicians either by choice or necessity usually become proficient in a wide variety of music. For his 11th album, the bassist displays his unique visions of 21st century contemporary jazz, with slices of 70's funk and pop, avant-garde, the 80's M-Base sound, (which he helped pioneer with fellow Chicagoan, saxophonist Steve Coleman) and even smooth jazz. Plaxico is part of an impressive list of Chicagoans who have successfully mixed other music with their own diverse vision of jazz including Herbie Hancock, Ramsey Lewis, Eddie Harris, Art Porter, Gene Ammons, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and though they had huge pop success Earth, Wind & Fire can also be counted. what he has in common with them is stylistic high energy verve and a regional tenacity that resonates with musicians from Chicago. It is an essence in the local music that is hard to describe but all those aforementioned West and South side jazz products of Chicago, including Plaxico, have found wider audiences than just the stereotypical close-minded jazz fan. Today Plaxico has lived in New York for more years than in the city he grew up in. Many young musicians now look at him as being "old school,"- a member of the celebrated Young Lions from the neo-classicism period of the 80's and a co-founder of the sonically expansive hip-hop/jazz/avant-garde/funk movement known as M-Base from the same period. His name and music has spread around the world, in huge part because of his almost 20 years as music director for the biggest star to come out of M-Base, Cassandra Wilson, who sings four songs on West Side Stories. The tunes contained herein are a further crystallization of Plaxico using core musical values learned in Chicago added to styles he helped define in the two decades he's spent in New York to make music that is uniquely Lonnie Plaxico. The blistering title track is quite representative of the way Plaxico likes to mix his originals with highly syncopated modern rhythms and very intricate melodies steeped in neo-classicism. Trumpeter Alex Norris, who was a revelation on Plaxico's last album, Live At Jazz Standard, continues to make his case as a rising star on this tune and on others that solos on. Keyboard player George Colligan is another veteran of the bassist's compositional style as he was the glue that held Plaxico's sterling 2001 album Mélange together. Colligan adds the perfect ingredients to Plaxico's music. Along with the sax man Gary Thomas, the bassist's long time musical cohort in Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition, And the literally thunder-stealing drummer, Kenny Grohowski, these musicians fire up the core of the music on West Side Stories. The sparks are added not only by the tremendous guest stars including Wilson, Coleman, Coltrane and singer Carla Cook, but by Plaxico's unabashed love of music from the 1970's. Funkadelic, Featuring Coltrane's wailing soprano sax and Duke It Out are interpretive tributes to two 70's funk icons named George; Clinton and Duke. It's funny but where record companies missed the boat on this one is probably the area that could sink West Side Stories with purists and critics. Despite all the challenging music on this disc, where Plaxico really takes chances is on the most accessible tracks, those featuring the biggest stars to emerge out of the M-Base movement; Wilson and Coleman. West Side Stories is Plaxico's 11th and quite possibly his breakthrough CD. Mark Ruffin Jazz Editor, Chicago Magazine Co-Host of Listen Here, The Public Radio Jazz Review

About the Artist

LONNIE PLAXICO Bassist, Composer, Producer The middle child in a family of musicians, Chicago-born Lonnie Plaxico inherited a gift for music that was discovered and nurtured early. By the age of twelve he had taught himself to play the electric bass, and he was soon venturing into Chicago's music scene, renowned for its mix of jazz, funk and blues. It was not long before the young musician made his first recording, featuring his family's band. At the age of fourteen, having already performed alongside several prominent Chicago jazz figures, Lonnie Plaxico turned professional, playing the electric and acoustic basses with equal facility. In 1980 Plaxico moved to New York and soon began to appear with such artists as Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon and Wynton Marsalis. His first extended tenure was with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers: between1983 and 1986, Lonnie performed on twelve of Blakey's albums, including the Grammy Award-winning, New York Scene. In 1986 he joined Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition, continuing with that group until 1993. Plaxico was also the musical director and featured bassist for Cassandra Wilson; their critically acclaimed and award-winning collaboration spanned fifteen years. Plaxico's recording and performance catalog is equally impressive for its caliber, depth and diversity. He has appeared with such luminaries as Sonny Sitt, Junior Cook, David Murray, Alice Coltrane, Stanley Turrentine, Joe Sample, Abbey Lincoln, and Dizzy Gillespie. Just as noteworthy are his performances with younger artists -- among them Steve Coleman, Rachelle Farrell and Dianne Reeves. Lonnie has also recorded with Bill Cosby, Lonnie Liston Smith, Ravi Coltrane and Barbara Dennerlein, as well as his Grammy-winning collaborations with Art Blakey and Cassandra Wilson. He has also recorded five critically acclaimed albums as leader: Plaxico (1990), Iridescence (1992), Short Takes (1993), With All Your Heart (1994), Emergence (2000), Mélange (! 2001), Live at the 5:01 Jazz Bar (2002), and Rhythm & Soul (2003) Live at the Jazz Standard (2004) So Alive(Sony music Japan (2004 )So Alive USA summer(2005), Lonnie Plaxico's musicianship is best exemplified in his masterful integration of different forms --combining the rigorous technique of classical, the improvisation of jazz, and the rawness of funk into one exhilarating musical experience. Performances: Geri Allen, Art Blakey, Tom Brown & Jimmy Owens, The Chilites, Steve Coleman, Alice Coltrane, Ravi Coltrane, Junior Cook, Jack DeJohnette, Bobby Enrica, Rachelle Farrell, Sonny Fortune, Chico & Von Freeman, Dexter Gordon, Slide Hampton & The World of Trombones, Barry Harris, Antonio Hart, John Hicks, Jay Hogart, Thelma Houston, Hank Jones, Rodney Jones, Cyndi Lauper, Kirk Lightsey, Carmen Lundey, Junior Mance, Chuck Mangione, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Keiko Matsui, Ronnie Matthews, Mulgrew Miller, David Murray, David "Fat Head" Newman, Greg Osby, Dianne Reeves! , Joe Sample & the Jazz Crusaders, Bud Shank, Woody Shaw, Melvin Sparks, Dakota Staton, Sonny Stitt, Clark Terry, Harold Vick, Jack Walrath, Cassandra Wilson, Allen Youngblood Soundtracks: School Daze (1988; Director: Spike Lee), Love Jones (1996; Director: Theodore Witcher) Videos: Cassandra Wilson & George Benson - Montreaux Jazz Festival (1998), Art Blakey Documentary (1986), Branford Marsalis- Royal Garden Blues (1987), Three Bassists Documentary - featuring Cecil McBee, Satee Debriano and Lonnie Plaxico (1988), Rozalla - I love music (1993) Appearances: Television: David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, Charlie Rose, The Today Show, The Morning Show, Joan Rivers Show Movies: Junior (1994; Directed by Ivan Reitman, starring Arnold Schwartzenegger) Major Jazz Clubs & Festivals (US & Abroad), The Score” Robert Deniro (2001) Strange Fruit (2002) Joel Katz PBS and Various Benefit Performances Awards/Distinctions: Louis Armstrong Jazz Award (1978), Charles Mingus & Fred Zimmermann! Bass Competition (1980): Third Place Award and Most Pr
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 24, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Plaxmusic
  • ASIN: B000FBHEGW
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #848,022 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By R. Crush on February 6, 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Plaxico's thing is doing straight ahead jazz with an original, funkified groove. This is not mass market music - it's far too heavy for that, not only rhythmically, but harmonically as well. Integrity is always present. All of Lonnie's albums and great and they are consistent; if you like one, you'll like them all. This is stuff that soul-jazz fans will get into instantly. A truly original approach to rhythm.
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From the opening Title cut, "West Side Stories", this CD grabs you and demands your attention. Lonnie's instrumental originals continue in the vain of his phenomenal prior album, "So Alive" (Sony Music Japan, 2004 - which I highly recommend), with funky syncopated rhythms and hard diving and soaring brass solos around contemporary compositions. The Lonnie Plaxico Group's unique interpretation of the covers on the CD are wonderful, with "Climb Every Mountain" and "I Want To Know What Love Is" offering rhythmic and chordal modulations that bring a freshness to their performance. The ballads, like the original composition "I Want It To Be" and the cover "One Less Bell To Answer" (both with vocalist Cassandra Wilson), are stellar with "I Want It To Be" capable of being a Smooth Jazz monster hit if it is Marketed properly.

The scope of the music played by The Lonnie Plaxico Group on this CD is equally impressive. From Funk Fusion instrumentals to Jazz Covers and Ballads, all played with an intelligence and musicianship that is uniquely their own. The Bass playing is stellar throughout (check out Lonnie's flamenco style bass solo on "I Want It To Be") and the drumming of young Kenny Grohowski, who was 22 years old at the time of this recording, is jaw dropping - his playing with these established Jazz artists only portends a great future for this up and coming drummer/musician. The trumpet playing of Alex Norris is superb and all of the Sax work, whether Ravi Coltrane, Steve Coleman, Gary Thomas or Gary Pickard is impecable. George Colligan's keyboard work is fiery and precise. On the whole, you can't go wrong with the purchase of this CD.
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