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"Spira invests his soprano with individual style accenting its intimately vocalic nature"

New Playground

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

more attractive.

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 This project is at

The Cell Nov. 10th. See Calendar.

THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD | NOVEMBER 2018 - page 29 | link To Website

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