Composer and trombonist Mark McGrain sits at the creative helm of Plunge, a prog-jazz ensemble with an ever-shifting lineup that put out its first record back in ’96. This time around, McGrain is accompanied by James Singleton on bass and Tim Green and Tom Fitzpatrick on saxophones. Dirty Dozen sousaphonist Kirk Joseph guests on two tracks, and the quartet/quintet bounces between styles, building powerful melodic lines in tight unison or spreading out into expansive collective improvisations.
Working as it does in a jazz/funk idiom, Plunge is inevitably defined by its drummerlessness. This feels quite natural on the most spacious, free-form tracks. On the more groove-centric numbers it can seem like an odd omission, as though the drum track was accidentally left on the studio floor. But this challenge seems to stimulate Plunge’s creativity. They rise to the occasion admirably on compositions like “Huff-A-Round”, which features the kind of powerful hook that pops insistently into your head for weeks.
By the end of the record, the approach seems perfectly natural. Plunge has a knack for building up a potent groove, then dropping into criss-crossing and exploratory solos before scooping up the pieces and plowing into a head-bobbing climax. Tin Fish Tango is a novel creation that manages to remain undeniably New Orleans.