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Lonnie Plaxico: West Side Stories

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Lonnie Plaxico has never been afraid to mix advanced rhythms and harmonies with R&B. For his 11th album as a leader, the bassist looks back to his Chicago upbringing, incorporating all the influences of his youth. But West Side Stories is something less than the sum of its parts.

The title tune blows in like a cyclone, with an elusive theme and knotty playing from Plaxico’s quintet. The urgent, constantly shifting rhythm section is superb. Trumpeter Alex Norris’ free-swinging, streetwise attack also stands out. But although the bubbling “Funkadelic” and staccato “Duke It Out” are cut from the same cloth, they never quite reach the bar set at the album’s start.

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