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The Upbeat: Planet D Nonet

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Friday, February 18, 2011

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Formed: Fall of 2007 in St. Clair Shores

Sound: Swing and big band jazz.

Members: Ken Ferry, trumpet (Allen Park); Dave Gadd, piano (St. Clair Shores); Jim Holden, tenor saxophone and clarinet (Northville); Joshua James, alto and baritone saxophones and clarinet (Ferndale); Justin Jozwiak, alto saxophone and clarinet (Detroit); Bill MacLeod, upright bass (Clinton Township); James O’Donnell, trumpet and vocals (Eastpointe); John Paxton, trombone (Royal Oak); RJ Spangler, drums (St. Clair Shores), with Dan Devins, featured vocalist (Washington Township).

Influences: Duke Ellington, Sun Ra, Billy Strayhorn and Fletcher Henderson.

Day Jobs: Group leader Spangler is a full-time musician who leads several other ensembles and owns the Eastlawn Records label. Jozwiak, Ferry and O’Donnell teach private lessons. Holden is a graduate student in jazz studies at Michigan State University, while Paxton is pursuing a teaching degree at Wayne State University. James is the band director at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s High School. MacLeod is a part-time house painter, Gadd is head of maintenance at the Rochester Hills Public Library, and Devins is an automotive clay modeler. All of the musicians play with other area groups.

What’s In A Name? Spangler says the group members voted on the Planet D Nonet name. “I referred to us as a nonet (nine-member band), because that’s what we were and everyone said, ‘We’ve got to keep that in there.’ Planet D came up for Detroit, and people were like, ‘Yeah, we like that.’ It was just at band practice one night — ‘Well, what do you want to call this?’ and this is what we came up with.”

Little Big Band: Spangler points out that the Nonet is different than the traditional 15-piece or better big band and is actually closer to early swing outfits. “When big bands started, they didn’t have as many guys,” he explains. “We go back to a little meaner and leaner time of swing music, when it was still being formatted. We use two trumpets, a trombone and three saxes, which gives us the agility of a small group but the harmonic palette of a larger group, so we can cover both worlds. That’s what fascinates me.”

Musical Mission: “People tend to categorize swing music as ‘old guys music,’ ” Spangler notes. “I feel if you put this music in front of anybody and they see it live, they get it. It’s great people can go and buy the records by the original masters, and I encourage them to do that, but you’re not going to really get it until you come out and see a group doing it.”

Hear ’em: Planet D Nonet has released a vinyl 45 and five CDs, the latest of which is “Blowin’ Away the Blues, Vol. 2.”

See ’em: The group will celebrate its third anniversary of playing live and of monthly engagements at the Blue Goose Inn at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20. The Blue Goose is at 28911 Jefferson Ave., St. Clair Shores. Admission is free but donations are solicited. Call 586-294-0690 or visit www.bluegooseinn.net.

Surf ’em: www.eastlawnrecords.com.

Web Site: www.eastlawnrecords.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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