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Artist Feature

Planet D Nonet

RJ Spangler, cofounder of the Sun Messengers and bandleader for recently departed blues legend Johnnie Bassett, has been Swingin' The D (as in Detroit) for quite a while now. But his latest band, The Planet D Nonet, has only been in full swing since 2007. This avant-swing/jazz/jump group prefers to mix it up, switching from early Louis Armstrong and Mezz Mezzrow jazz, to Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson swing charts, to Louis Jordan jump/swing, to proto-Detroit R&B, to space-age Sun Ra jazz— often in the same set.

The nine-piece is co-led by drummer Spangler and trumpeter James O'Donnell, and is rounded out by Justin Jozwiak on alto sax and clarinet, Jim Holden on tenor sax, Joshua James (who also serves as musical director) on baritone and alto sax, Ken Ferry on second trumpet, John Paxton on trombone and vocals, David Gadd on piano, and Bill MacLeod on string bass.

The Planet D Nonet proudly hails from Detroit, as the D in their name proclaims, and on their Detroit Music Factory debut, Swingin' The D, they do just that. The record is a sampler of the group's touring set, with about a third of the tracks solidly in the jump/swing vein and the rest moving more toward mainstream jazz. The album gets a kick from some guest vocalists, with Motown legend Thornetta Davis belting out a bluesy ballad and Dan Devins delivering an up-tempo Kansas City blues shuffle. The group's own trombonist, John Paxton, contributes vocals on a couple of tunes, as well.

Spangler and the guys have put out several records in the Nonet's five years in existence. They've toured extensively and have radio airplay in more than 20 states. With Swingin' The D, they hope to win over a whole new audience and give the diehards a little something for their loyalty.