Planet D spins in its own orbit around the jazz sun – in their case, Sun Ra – and channels years of musical experience and feeling into their performances. They have a special repertoire including compositions by Sun Ra, Fletcher Henderson and Ellington, funked up with R&B numbers by legendary bandleader Buddy Johnson and Detroit stars Paul Williams and Todd Rhodes.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to improve a “classic” recording. So, imbuing them with Detroit zeitgeist and feeling is the order of the day. It’s kinda like applying a coat of 21st century polish to a revered older structure. The trick is to enhance, rather than re-do. Planet D has this quality, and make the contents of this disc shine. By doing so, they veer away from becoming a repertory band and allow the musicians to add their own touches to this fine music. And fine music it is, each track carefully chosen and adapted to Planet D’s instrumentation. Besides their in-house arranger, the band called upon like-minded souls for several charts.
Planet D is the brainchild of two veteran Detroit musicians, RJ Spangler & James O’Donnell, and they distilled everything they’ve learned from decades of music making to create PD9.
For drummer/percussionist Spangler, a music activist who’s championed many forgotten Detroit blues and jazz greats, Planet D is another step down the same road, pushing into the spotlight music that deserves wider recognition. Spangler’s a well-rounded musician who first learned his craft scuffling around Detroit and neighboring cities, playing bars for modest income and making musical riches.
He spent decades working with guitarist Johnnie Bassett, saxophonist “Sweet Lou” Barnett, pianist Joe Weaver and Blues Queen Alberta Adams. He also co-founded Detroit's Sun Messengers, who for a time featured swing classics. RJ is now a familiar figure at music outlets around the country and abroad.
O’Donnell is one of Detroit's premier swing trumpet men, having spent years learning the finer points of growling from ex-Lunceford trumpeter Russell Green. Green was a versatile and gifted musician known to Detroiters from his years with Maurice King’s fabled Flame Show Bar band. James has always been blessed with a ready wit and Satchmo-like singing style, and his solos both open and plunger-muted generate plenty of swing. He’s a perfect fit for this music.
Another long-time musical associate, trombonist/vocalist John “T-Bone” Paxton, adds his large sound and soulful vocals to the band – check out “Come Rain Or Come Shine” or “Azure Te” for good examples of his gifts.
This is a band with an ambitious repertoire, and the guys put body & soul into making it a success. This music is where I live, and hearing these numbers performed with such spirit and elan makes me feel good.