Planet D Nonet
“…One of Detroit’s great party bands,” with a “sweeping field of vision that ranges from Swing Era classics to connoisseur works by Duke Ellington, mind-expanding pieces by the visionary Sun Ra and some down-and-dirty joint R&B.” Brian McCollum of the Detroit Free Press.
Detroit’s own down and dirty little big band, known nationally for curating some of the best in early jazz traditions and Black-American musical influences from the 20s, 30s and 40s, Planet D Nonet is more “hot” than “sweet,” according to PD9 cofounder and bandleader RJ Spangler, who started the nine piece ensemble with longtime musical partner James O’Donnell in 2007.
PD9, a pared down version of the traditional big bands of the 1930s, frequently features guest vocalists, adding to the versatility of the band’s show. The number of musicians in the lineup is reminiscent of the earliest big bands, when swing was still evolving into the sound that defined jazz music’s most popular era.
“The band retains the agility of a small group,” says Spangler, “but with the harmonic palette of a larger one.”
The band’s repertoire is unmatched, in one set paying tribute to the music of Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson, and in another the proto-R&B sounds of Detroit artists such as Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams and King Porter. On some nights an audience might be treated to an entire evening devoted to the Afro-futuristic rhythms of Sun Ra—to whom the name Planet D Nonet is a deferential nod, if not a wink.
The group has been nominated and awarded multiple honors over the past decade, including several Detroit Music Awards 2011-2015. In 2016, PD9 was named DMA for Outstanding Traditional Jazz Artist/Group.
PD9’s latest release, A Salute to Strayhorn, features musical selections associated with the composer, lyricist, arranger and pianist Billy Strayhorn, best known for his celebrated musical collaborations with Duke Ellington.
The cuts are a mix of studio and live recordings, including a performance of “Such Sweet Thunder” captured at Detroit’s NPR station WDET. Vocalist Camille Price brings sultry and seductive styling’s to a few cuts including “Imagine my Frustration,” and “I’ve Got it Bad, and That Ain’t Good.”
With all the hours that PD9 have put in pounding the musical pavement, it’s hard to imagine that any avowed Ellington/Strayhorn fan hasn’t yet experienced them, whether live or recorded. The 2016 release provides the perfect opportunity to discover this group known for putting body, soul and spirit into every bit of music they touch. If you have not yet experienced Planet D Nonet, your groove tank is missing out on some serious fuel.