Planet D Nonet (PD9) is a versatile jazz ensemble that can tackle styles that range from Sun Ra’s spacey/progressive fusion to the classic swing arrangements of Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train.” If they have a specialty, though, has to be swing—not the Brian Setzer 90’s rock-hybrid revival, but rather the particularly strong groove and designedly smooth compositions of the jazz giants of the twentieth century: Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman.
What’s subtly indelible about swing music is the way its legendary auteurs trail-blazed a new kind of rhythm— especially on guitars and pianos. The elements in PD9’s “Moten Swing” that will surely get your toes tapping are the buoyancy of those piano keys and the tightly chopped riffs of those guitars, percolating slickly under the melodies of the saxophones, trumpet, and trombone.
Planet D Nonet was founded 12 years ago. Co-founders RJ Spangler (drums) and James O’Donnell (trumpet) aimed to revitalize the speakeasy-era jazz that revolutionized the genre and purposefully engage their audiences to rediscover (or perhaps discover for the first time) timeless tunes by the likes of Fats Waller, Fletcher Henderson and, of course, Count Basie.
Along with Spangler and O’Donnell, Planet D Nonet features Justin Jozwiak, Jim Holden, Goode Wyche III, Charlie Miller, John Paxton, Jeff Cuny, Michael Zaporski. Select few of their other yearly engagements are augmented by another member, guitarist Matt LoRusso.
Each Spring, PD9 performs a concert at the Scarab Club, shaping each program to a different theme. Their Billy Strayhorn performance was recorded onto a CD that won them a Detroit Music Award and charted at #23 on the Billboard Traditional Jazz chart. Their most recent win in the DMA’s is their sixth to date.
PD9’s forthcoming album release, last year’s live Scarab Club recording, focuses on Count Basie and the often overlooked composer, Bennie Moten, whose 1932 track “Moten Swing” was instrumental in developing swing music’s characteristically more loosened-up, whimsical (and dancer-friendly) style and energy.
What comes through on the recordings of PD9 is exactly what you’ll see live at their shows; these are players that are not only consummate musicians but carry a lifelong passion for jazz, and that love and appreciation for the music and its traditional compositions comes through on stage. Their goal isn’t necessarily to get you to dance, but rather to stir that epiphany in pockets of the audience, that maybe they, maybe you, never realized how much you love jazz.
“Lotus Blossom” is another track on their upcoming release. The featured vocalist is Camille Price, fluttering and draping her smooth vibrato over the swaying rhythm and matching the cascading brass section’s evocation of unfurling petals caught up in a mid-summer’s breeze.
Next Sunday (March 24), PD9 plays a matinee set at Trinosophes to celebrate the release of their tribute to Basie and Moten. In addition to a live CD, there will also be a 34-page booklet available at the release, featuring an essay about Moten and Kansas City Jazz by noted historian and author Jim Gallert.
Kings of Kansas City Swing-Bennie Moten & Count Basie
Sunday, March 24, 3pm @ Trinosophes