Emergence begins with a bang but then goes gradually downhill. Plaxico alternates between acoustic and electric bass, and mightily tries to reconcile the jazz and funk elements of his vision. Although most tracks feature driving rhythms, incredibly intricate horn writing, and compelling solos, the album grows numbingly repetitive as it proceeds.
On the jazz side, "Transformation" begins the record with riveting post-bop fire, while "Libertarian" and "Red Light District" provide new perspectives on the standards "Dear Old Stockholm" and "Love for Sale," respectively. On the funk side, "Delusion" and "Emancipation" stand out, recalling the dissonant colors heard on Sam Rivers' acclaimed 1999 album Inspiration. But Plaxico seems to run low on ideas by the time he gets to "Equilibrium," "Inner Voice," and Chick Corea's "Matrix." Six brief interludes featuring bass and/or percussion are interspersed throughout the program, yielding mixed results -- the most effective being "Paramita (to arrive at the other side)."
Monster players abound, including the wonderful Don Braden on saxophones, Ralph Alessi on trumpet, and Jason Moran on piano. Emergence is also distinguished by several lesser known but highly capable musicians: Larry Lunetta on trumpet, Tim Hegarty on sax, Eric Lewis on piano and organ, Lionel Cordew on drums, and Jeffrey Haynes on percussion. Haynes produced the interludes, and noted vocalist Cassandra Wilson, for whom Plaxico has served as musical director, produced the main tracks.