Stephane Spira (Spirajazz)
by Donald Elfman
New Playground is romantic music in the best and
most lovely sense of the word. Saxophonist Stephane
Spira, a French-born saxophonist now living in New
York, offers a spirited and appealing program of
originals reflecting a personal sense of love, of family,
of parenthood (Spira became a father for the first time
at age 51) and, naturally, of music.
This recording is lyrical and sweet but never sappy.
Spira invests his soprano with individual style
accenting its intimately vocalic nature. “Underground
Ritual” has bouncy themes and wailing lines that most
suggest the joy that this music evokes. Pianist Joshua
Richman plays Fender Rhodes with just the right
combination of sass and sweet soul. The tune is
dedicated to a saxophone mouthpiece designer
whose basement became a place for saxophonists like
Wayne Shorter, Ravi Coltrane and Mark Turner to
meet, play and listen.
Another central composition here is “Gold Ring
Variations”, a sentimental ballad devoted to Spira’s
wife. The music is quietly and pointedly haunting with
Spira’s playing honest and never cloying. Richman, on
piano, is bluesy and authentic. “Peter’s Run” opens the
album, emerging and deriving from a hand-clapped
rhythm. The theme is catchy and slick and the fine
rhythm players—Richman, bassist Steve Wood and
drummer Jimmy Macbride—keep the groove ever
Wood penned the only non-Spira original, a quietly
changing melody constructed over a five-bar sequence
with he, Richman and Spira all taking brief and
understated solos. Almost as a thank you, the leader
closes with a tune featuring the stellar bassist, “Solid
Wood”. It’s a tribute to the steady pulse always on
offer and yet another expression of the way these
players fit together with their individual prowess and
sense of communication.
For more information, visit spirajazz.com. This project is at
The Cell Nov. 10th. See Calendar.
THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD | NOVEMBER 2018 - page 29 | link To Website