YOU GOTTA hand it to Plunky. In a field crowded with imitators, the Richmond-based saxophonist comes off sounding like an original on "Move Into the Light," a crazy quilt of an album that embraces (or at the very least alludes to) pop-jazz, funk, rap, hip-hop, soul, go-go, the African rhythm diaspora and not a little self-promotion. To wit: "I'm Plunky/I play the saxophone/but don't think of me as just another clone."
Clearly, Plunky see his music as tonic for what ails you, and to the extent that it refuses to let pop formulas get in the way of his personality, he may be right. Toward the end of the otherwise frothy pop-jazz tune "Love Tide Rising," for example, he takes off on a tortuous jag just to keep you guessing. Playing soft and sweet comes to him naturally (and often) here, and there are times on "Here and Now" and other tracks when canned rhythms and sweetened vocal choruses bring him perilously close to mimicking the competition. But just when you think he's playing it way too safe, Plunky comes up with something as spacey as the title track or as beat-intensified as "New Jack Jam" to justify his boasts. PLUNKY -- "Move Into the Light" (N.A.M.E. Brand Records). Appearing Friday with Oneness at Ed Murphy's Supper Club.