Thursday, July 5, 2018

CLAUDIA ACUÑA: A Tribute To Abbey Lincoln at Dizzy's :: July 11-12, 2018 + HotHouse Cover feature


“Claudia sings in the tradition of the great ones. Her sound is her own.”
– ABBEY LINCOLN


CLAUDIA ACUÑA

A TRIBUTE TO ABBEY LINCOLN
JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER’S DIZZY’S CLUB COCA-COLA

Wednesday, July 11 – Thursday, July 12

7:30pm & 9:30pm

CLAUDIA ACUÑA, vox

PABLO VERGARA, piano

JUANCHO HERRERA, guitar

CARLOS HENDERSON, bass

OBED CALVAIRE, drums


Claudia Acuña’s Life Lessons By Stephanie Jones

From an early age, vocalist Claudia Acuña realized her ear worked in way that’s similar to an identic memory. She could remember lines and chord progressions and recreate with her voice what she heard guitars and horns playing. As a young singer in Santiago, Chile with no access to music programs in private institutions, Claudia relied exclusively on what she did have at her disposal—the records. “I grabbed every tool that I could,” she says.

Deriving a strategy from pure listening, she would take her favorite recordings from Bill Evans and Erroll Garner, search for each track’s corresponding lyrics, then create her own vocal arrangement around the existing recording. “The arrangement, per se, or the recording was not made for me,” she says. “It was almost like jumping in to accompany the recording. So that made me dig into harmonies and see how I could fit the melody or improvise around what was already done.”

As a result of her early ear training, Claudia developed into a sensitive musician who approaches space, time and harmony in a receptive way. And when she traveled to New York to play professionally, she found herself among myriad artists who approached the music with equal sensitivity.

Her upcoming performance pays tribute to one of those artists—the person who would become her mentor and beloved friend: Abbey Lincoln. “To many singers, Abbey became an icon,” Claudia says. “To me, she was someone who always sang according to the message that she wanted to give. And after the greats before her—Ella and Carmen McRae and Billie—she and Betty [Carter] were the people that were around, and I was very honored and blessed that I became someone she considered a friend.”

Today Claudia’s known for her unique ability to interpret a song, connecting with the listener on a variety of levels. But as a young singer hitting the session scene, she spent many nights hanging around Abbey, listening not only to her music but to her inputs. Sometimes Claudia took a while to interpret and understand every piece of Abbey’s advice, but when she observed Abbey performing, that’s when everything would click into focus.

“She said this to me once, and then I saw her perform and it was a click: The only difference between my instrument and another instrument is that we have the power of words,” says Claudia. “Even though we play melodies, the difference between me and a saxophone player is that most likely I’m going to be singing lyrics. We’re storytellers. We’re not just singing a beautiful melody; the words are powerful and they exist for a reason.”

Another important lesson Claudia gleaned from her interactions with Abbey is the importance of conviction. Growing up with parents who challenged her devotion to a career in music, Claudia understood the power of inner strength from a young age. But when she began her informal apprenticeship with Abbey, she found a confidant whose own convictions had a profound influence on Claudia’s artistry.


“She taught you to hold your own and to stand for what you believe,” Claudia says, “regardless of what people think, regardless of where the business is going. If you have a vision and you believe in something strongly, then you need to stand for it.”

Claudia’s challenge—in addition to the Herculean task of sorting through Abbey’s repertoire—has been striking a creative balance between honoring Abbey’s legacy and expression and preserving her own artistic identity within Abbey’s music. She’s pored over countless repertoire selections and continues to work through arrangements whenever she has a free moment, which is rare for the busy artist. “I already have five songs and I have to pick another five, and I’m just like ‘Ah!!’” she exclaims.

“In the beginning, when I thought about that balance, I didn’t really get as deeply into the thought as I’ve been getting the past couple weeks. As I’m digging into her music, memories are coming back: Conversations, things I’m now remembering because maybe I ran into a note that she wrote or a song that we talked down.”

One way Claudia seeks to achieve such a balance is by choosing repertoire that reflects how she feels about today’s social unrest. “Abbey was very proactive and outspoken,” she says. “Right now, I feel the world, and this country, is going through so many things. How can I pick from that, that also represents how I feel today? So, at this point, I’m sort of letting the songs pick me.”

As she approaches the eighth anniversary of Abbey’s passing, Claudia reflects on how Abbey’s music has influenced the direction she has taken her own craft, and on the spirit of her upcoming performance: “I’m just trying to celebrate her birthday, her legacy and the inspiration that she is and always will be.”

Claudia Acuña: A Tribute to Abbey Lincoln features Pablo Vergara on piano, Juancho Herrera on guitar, Carlos Henderson on bass and Obed Calvaire on drums at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, July 11-12.

Fire and Music: Nsimbi Tells Human Stories with East African Wisdom, Grace, and Swagger (2018)



At the studio, she ran into Zamba, a legend on the burgeoning Ugandan hip hop scene who had racked up numerous awards, producing gigs, and brand sponsorships. The two connected, and when Zamba was looking for a singer for a government-supported track to raise HIV awareness, he called on Tamar. The song is credited with making a significant impact, Zamba notes. They went on to more collaborations, as part of Zamba’s hip hop label.

“I was singing more pop and hip hop,” Tamar recalls. “I didn’t really have a strong idea about my voice or message at that point, but I knew I wanted to be singing and writing. I was experimenting and figuring out what I needed to do that felt closer to my own vision.” Then, after five years in Uganda, events drew Tamar back to the States. In the year she spent alone in the US, she found her voice, writing and recording a solo EP, Firedance. The EP debuted in the top five of the iTunes world chart, garnering strong reviews and significant YouTube views.

When Zamba came and joined her in America, he began to explore new ideas. Though he had collaborated with traditional and acoustic musicians in Uganda, his focus and his claim to fame were his accomplishments as a hip hop MC. Known as a “ghetto storyteller” for his frank portrayals of life in Kampala, “I grew up listening to American MCs like Nas and to rappers from South Africa and elsewhere. I had fun as a young man just doing hip hop, but it wasn’t my only center. I was all over the place; I would preach on the record but it never felt whole.” Zamba, too, began to search for a different way to raise his voice.


The romantic ties that bound Zamba and Tamar inevitably blossomed into musical collaboration, as both found a deeper calling as artists. “This album was an opportunity to mature and evolve and promote the things we both believe in,” says Zamba. “We love culture, and we want to encourage international collaboration across cultures.”

They hit upon Swahili proverbs as conceptual anchors, bringing their broad musical loves and diverse experiences together. “There is so much in these proverbs, some of which I first encountered when I studied Swahili in college and in Tanzania,” Tamar notes. “We’d talk about them, and then Zamba would find similar ideas in Baganda culture.” “Leo ni Leo,” for example, reminds listeners that all we have is today, but today is more than enough to find joy. “Dunia ni Matembezi” advises listeners to leave their familiar surroundings and discover the world, literally stating that “the world is walking,” getting out there, seeing new things.

The evocative proverbs were just the beginning. “After we’d thought about the proverb, we’d come up with stories that we could tie together from our two perspectives and experiences, and I’d develop the melody,” recalls Tamar. “We ended up singing in English, Luganda, Lingala, and Swahili.” The linguistic range was enhanced by the duo’s collaborators, US-based Ugandan multi-instrumentalist Kinobe and Congolese-born soukous guitarist and singer Jaja Bashengezi, whose musical imprint on tracks like the party-read “Sokota” proved crucial to the album.

Nsimbi has diverse origins but the tracks share a sonic integrity, a sunny acoustic sound and a mesmerizing rhythmic intensity. Within the overarching feel, the contributors’ various styles glimmer through: Tamar’s singer-songwriter instincts (“Gonna Be Alright”), Zamba’s hip hop roots (“Flower of the Heart”), Bashengezi’s red-hot soukous licks, and Kinobe’s expressive kora (“Forsaken,” which addresses the plight of refugees in East Africa and worldwide). Zamba and Tamar’s musical impulses sometimes lead to different understandings of a shared concept, as in “Omugga,” dedicated to the swaying current of a river. Tamar heard the pulse in one way, Zamba another. “You can watch us dancing to these different beats on stage,” laughs Tamar. “But it all came together, even though our sense of a river’s rhythm were so different.”


The differences and variations are part of the point. “We have very different approaches to writing,” reflects Tamar, “and the pace we worked at was scary, but rewarding.” “One thing we both love and agree on, we love music that helps society,” Zamba adds. “We don’t mean this in some corny way; it’s not a trite thing. We honestly believe in music’s positive power in the world.”

Dunia ni Matembezi
Leo Ni Leo
Mujje
Omugga
Forsaken
Koona
Acholi Boy
Gonna Be Alright
Flower Of The Heart
Kulusozi
Moonglow
Sokota Ft Jaja Bashengezi
Amaka


Makrú - Tu Mission (2018)


If You Choose to Accept It: Makrú, San Francisco’s Sonic Nomads, Want You to Find Tu Mission

Wayfaring musician Raúl Vargas got a tip from a fellow Spaniard he crossed paths with in Sydney, Australia: He had to go to San Francisco, and he had to check out the international hostel in the Mission District. Vargas, who spent years traveling after playing music and cooking professionally in Madrid, was game.

A few weeks later, he landed, got to the hostel, and knew it. He had found his place. That was where Vargas met bassist Vinicio Peñate which led to the birth of Makrú.

Sixteen years passed, and a lot has changed, but Vargas and the band he founded in 2008, Makrú, are still loud and proud and freethinking as ever. On Tu Mission, the five-strong group blends everything from reggae to rumba flamenca to ska in songs designed to spark change and connect listeners to the spirit of the place that inspired the project.



“Message is as important as the music on this album,” Vargas explains. “It doesn’t have to be openly political. In general when I write, a song’s message could be silly or really serious and important. I picked songs for this new album that create missions for people, ways they can hopefully help to improve their lives and surroundings, even in small ways. I decided to do fewer songs but have them be much stronger in this purpose.”

Songs beckon listeners to harken to nature’s beauty (the rolling, rainforest-inspired “Palabras”), to connect with their personal source of happiness and peace (“Cloud”), to call for open borders and free movement (the punchy brass-powered reggae ska anthem of “Nómadas Opción”).

As sonic nomads, Makrú lets songs take on whatever style or color they need to make their point. “I may write a rumba or a ska for one song, the next song will be likely something completely different,” Vargas reflects. “I don’t really have a niche that way, and we add new instruments or sounds or influences that fit the conscious message.”



Makrú grew out of a uniquely Bay Area creative endeavor, La Malamaña. Vargas settled in the Mission and got to know fellow Spanish-speakers from around the Latin world, including Peñate. The experience made him rethink his own roots, and he went from listening to mostly Anglophone rock to diving into music from Spain and Latin America.

“We were hanging around, all these Latino and Latina friends, eight people from seven countries. We want to start a project, but we don’t know what we’re doing,” Vargas recalls with a laugh. “The group had so much talent, with dancers, actors, and musicians. We decided to do three different arts combined into one project. It was unique every time, dancing on stilts and juggling fire.”

Along with the performance art came wild, upbeat music. “My fellow artists encouraged me to bring more Spanish flavor to the music, so I started writing music for it,” Vargas says. “We had this mix from Venezuela, Cuba, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Spain and Argentina, and I really loved playing around with it.” The mix of pan-Latin music and art was pretty unique for the Bay Area and eventually won the group gigs at major local venues.

Makrú spun off from La Malamaña, keeping its wide-ranging but Latin-centric heart. The group’s sound emerged gradually: “The music I was writing and that I keep writing, makes the most of all the places I’ve been and where I’m from,” says Vargas. “It’s also drawing on the diverse experience from the band members.” North American guitarist Bob Sanders, Colombian singer and vihuela player Jenny Rodriguez, and Turkish violinist and oud player Haluk Kecelioglu bring their own musical ideas to Makrú. The diversity in sonic and geographic origins has sparked a united sense of urgency and hope, as Peñate explains. “We put our own sources of inspiration and energy into our music,” he says. “Some of the lyrics in ‘Where you wanna be’ are like a mantra to me. ‘Embrace the world / And fight until you are gone.’ I want to live by that.”



Nómadas Opción
Contar
Cloud
Palabras
Tu Mission
Palabras (Extended Version)


Sábados Porta-Jazz | The Nada - 19:00 e 22:00 - 7 Julho


Julho na Porta-Jazz

Em parceria com a agenda cultural da Junta da União de Freguesias do Centro Histórico do Porto e com o apoio da Porto Lazer

Em Julho, os habituais Sábados Porta-Jazz mantêm-se na mesma morada da Rua de João das Regras, mas passam para o seu espaço exterior.

Depois da praia há jazz e bebidas fresquinhas à sombra do abacateiro!
Sempre às 19:00 e um segundo set às 22:00.

The Nada - 7 Julho - 19:00 e 22:00

Este projecto tem a sua génese na assunção de claras empatias musicais entre os seus membros, tendo sido a vinda de Simon Jermyn a Portugal um factor decisivo para a sua consolidação.

Sendo o jazz o universo comum entre os seus membros, a premissa de “the Nada” é, desde o início, a da procura de novos cenários e influências de onde a improvisação também possa brotar, bem como da aplicação de conceitos composicionais provenientes de outras correntes musicais. A exploração sonora com recurso a efeitos electrónicos e a sua coexistência com sons acústicos alavanca, muitas vezes, o potencial pictórico e amplia a diversidade paisagística deste grupo.

Assim, sente-se a presença de elementos característicos da música electrónica, da música tradicional, do rock, da música improvisada e da composição erudita contemporânea, bem como do jazz.

Em suma, o projecto pretende-se uma plataforma onde possam co-existir um “beat” de influência electrónica com uma melodia de índole tradicional, ou onde de uma explosão “rockeira” desponte um solo subsidiário do “freejazz”. A improvisação e a expressão artística de carácter vincado são elementos agregadores fortes.

João Guimarães - Sax e Teclado
Eurico Costa - Guitarra eléctrica
Filipe Louro - Baixo eléctrico
José Marrucho - Bateria

Próximos Sábados Porta-Jazz
Rua de João das Regras 305 - à Praça da República

14 Julho - 19:00 e 22:00
Demian Cabaud - Astah

21 Julho - 19:00 e 22:00
Susana Santos Silva - Impermanence

28 Julho - 19:00 e 22:00
Quarteto de Vasco Agostinho

Masterclass e Concerto

Terça-Feira, 17 Julho

Sara Serpa Trio

Marsterclass às 17:00 ** | Concerto às 21:30
**Inscrição para a masterclass: producao.portajazz@gmail.com
Sábados Porta-Jazz - Rua de João das Regras 305, 4000-293 Porto

5€ / 3€ Membros*

* (doação sugerida); Membros: https://portajazz.com/about/membros/ 
quotas válidas por 1 ano: Membro amigo 40 eur; Membro músico/estudante 25 eur.

Summer Festivals Special & Premiere of ESINAM's Newest Video Clip (Electric Lady)

BOS! FESTIVAL

Don’t fancy big and crowded music festivals? Bos! Festival is the perfect alternative! Atmosphere is key, since the event is located in Domein Bergelen (nature reserve near Kortrijk). Bos! Festival presents 17 musical acts, ranging from electronical to classical music. De Beren Gieren will play the repertoire of their latest lauded album ‘Dug Out Skyscrapers’ for you. 


07.07 De Beren Gieren @ Bos! Festival, Kortrijk (BE)


ESINAM SUPPORT FOR SELAH SUE AT OLT ANTWERP

After Melanie De Biasio, Témé Tan and Alsarah & The Nubatones, ESINAM will also be the support act of Selah Sue's sold-out concert at Openluchttheater this summer (on personal request). One of the highlights of our summer! 


08.08 ESINAM @ Openluchttheater, Antwerp (BE)


JAZZ MIDDELHEIM

Thé jazz festival in Flanders, Jazz Middelheim, invited De Beren Gieren & Aka Moon to play at their main stage this summer.


De Beren Gieren are programmed at a mainly-Belgian-bands day, with Melanie De Biasio, Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Philip Catherine, …

On Sunday, Aka Moon shares the stage with jazz magnitudes like Archie Shepp.

10.08 De Beren Gieren @ Jazz Middelheim, Antwerp (BE)
12.08 Aka Moon @ Jazz Middelheim, Antwerp (BE)


HERBAKKERSFESTIVAL

During the first weekend of Herbakkersfestival, muziekclub N9 is programming concerts in the intimate setting of Canadaplein (Eeklo). On Sunday 12 August, they focus on jazz in all its forms and scents. Beside Severijn De Neve, Commander Spoon & Elias D’hooge Quartet, two of our bands will be playing for you: BRZZVLL will present its latest album ‘Waiho’ (Sdban), the musicians of Echoes of Zoo release the beast with their psychedelic instrumental music.

12.08 BRZZVLL @ Herbakkersfestival, Eeklo (BE)
12.08 Echoes of Zoo @ Herbakkersfestival, Eeklo (BE)


JAZZ IN 'T PARK

For its 25th festive edition, Jazz in ’t Park appointed retired jazz journalist Karel van Keymeulen as a curator for the program of their cosy jazz festival. Karel selected two of our bands, De Beren Gieren and Aka Moon, to play in the enchanting Zuidpark:

06.09 De Beren Gieren @ Jazz in ’t Park, Ghent (BE)
07.09 Aka Moon @ Jazz in ’t Park, Ghent (BE)


NEW VIDEO CLIP ESINAM OUT NOW: ELECTRIC LADY


The brand-new video clip of ESINAM, 'Electric Lady', was premiered on Pan African Music last month. You will find the track on her very first EP (Sdban, Sept. '18) which will be officially presented on 21 September in Botanique (Brussels). Enjoy the watching and mark your calendars!

21.09 ESINAM @ Botanique, Brussels (BE)

Your BBQ playlist! (VERVE RECORDS)


The legendary ladies sing, among others. Ella: “Body and Soul,” “April in Paris,” “This Can't Be Love” “My Man”; Billie: “Lover, Come Back to Me,” “Willow Weep for Me”; Carmen: “Skyliner,” “Perdido.”

E.E. Engström & The Twin Street Tree Trunk Love Ensemble - Small Town Curse (2018)


Dear someone,

To begin with, I want to make it perfectly clear that I never intended for any of this to happen. It's just one of those things I suppose, Pandora's box now empty aside from remnants of ashes. I had thought this whole matter was long since buried, but when I was called upon to find those missing, and the mystery coiled like fog 'round tree tops, I realised the choice was not mine to make. I thought it through and gathered my select few. What I discovered was a grand conspiracy that had been ongoing for several years, unbeknownst to the community at large. The forces the shadowy figures involved were conjuring were more severe than anything any of us had previously encountered. We followed the trail into darkness, always one step behind. Guns unfired, we spent our time documenting what had taken place. That is, until one particularly gruesome night. We had delved too deep and in all its horrible glory we faced what had been moving at dusk, the core of it all: the effect of the curse. It was suddenly painfully obvious. And it could only have happened in this sort of town. 

Sincerely,

E.E. Engström


1. Missing Since September 21st 04:29
2. He Was Working Out of State 03:52
3. Abandoned Property 05:26
4. Beneath the Oldest Tree 04:55
5. They'll Leave if You Let Them 06:51
6. Dive Bar Hex 03:39
7. Basement Deity 02:36
8. Her Gun Found 06:17

Small Town Curse was written and performed by:
E.E. Engström

and the groovy gloomy gallows group:
The Twin Street Tree Trunk Love Ensemble


Glen Whitehead Trio - The Living Daylights (pfMENTUM 2018)


The Living Daylights is based on natural phenomena that play with our perceptions of space, time and place, created from improvisational structures that enable many possibilities within the natural restraints of a conscious system. 


1. Living Daylights Suite 1-At Time's Place 05:02
2. Living Daylights Suite 2-Zenosyne 08:23
3. Living Daylights Suite 3-Apophenia 08:30
4. Heliopause 04:01
5. 42 Degrees 04:31
6. Bow Shock 05:49
7. Shedding Vortices 03:38
8. Involution Engine 06:22
9. Fissure Syndrome 03:54
10. Pearl of Swirl 05:50
11. Punktuation 07:44



recorded at the Banquet Studios 2/6/16 and 7/21/16, Guerneville, CA
Engineered by Darryl Webb
Mixed and Mastered by Wayne Peet Killzone, Newzone Studio, Los Angeles, February 2018
Photo credit - Glen Whitehead
Graphic Design - Fred Killian
copyright 2018 Glen Whitehead (ASCAP)
PfMENTUM PFMCD125


Stéphane Spira / New Playground (September 21, 2018)


French-Born, NY-Based Saxophonist/Composer Stéphane Spira Finds Inspiration in a New Home, a New Family, and New Collaborators 

The engineer-turned-soprano saxophonist enlists Joshua Richman, Steve Wood and Jimmy Macbride to join him on a lyrical, swinging New Playground, out September 21, 2018 

“Spira is self-taught, but he’s musically mature and his music is soulful… Spira’s evolution is one to watch.”  – Ken Micallef in a 4-star DownBeat review of In Between 

“[Spira’s] comfort jazz, honestly prepared with organic ingredients in a low-key setting, invites revisiting.” – Fred Bouchard, The New York City Jazz Record 


Saxophonist and composer Stéphane Spira honed his jazz chops old-school style, at late-night jams and cutting sessions. Self-taught as a musician, Spira pursued an engineering degree, did a brief stint as an engineer in Saudi Arabia, then in the 1990’s headed back to his hometown of Paris to pursue music full time. After 15 years of playing in Paris clubs, woodshedding, and eventually recording two albums, Spira decided to change everything. Soprano saxophone in hand, he moved to New York City and started over. What he found was inspiration beyond his wildest dreams: a jazz career with a core group of tremendous musicians, and love with the woman who would become his wife and the mother to his young son. On New Playground, Spira celebrates the creative and personal happiness he’s discovered since making over his life. 

“I had my first kid at 51,” Spira says. “That helps to keep me young.  I'm also a young musician, just not in age. But I so love the music, and I’m truly realizing my dream.”    

Due out on September 21, New Playground finds Spira leading an impeccably gifted quartet featuring longtime bassist Steve Wood, pianist and keyboardist Joshua Richman, and rising star drummer Jimmy Macbride. The band reflects the rich playground – and the wealth of talented playmates – that Spira has discovered since arriving in New York. “It’s unique to have such a level of playing everywhere you look,” he says. “Because there are so many great players, the criteria becomes finding human relationships that can grow. In the end, that helps the music.” 

Wood returns from Spira’s previous album, In Between (2014), while Richman has newly joined the ensemble. The in-demand Macbride, who has worked with legends Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis as well as being a member of the thriving young NY jazz scene alongside artists like Nir Felder, Fabian Almazan and Melissa Aldana, brings a vigorous sense of swing and a bristling energy to the proceedings. 

Recorded as Spira was still finding his bearings in his newly adopted home, In Between captured the sense of limbo in which he was living at the time: between countries, and between one phase of life and another. Much has changed since then, making the title New Playground equally autobiographical given his current place in life, still fresh but offering exciting opportunities to enjoy life’s playful side.

Spira discovered jazz as a teenager and got his first saxophone at the age of 22. Despite the intellectual and time demands involved in getting an engineering degree, he never stopped playing his instrument.

After returning to Paris he regularly attended jam sessions, played in clubs, woodshedded in the basement, and, at the age of 40, released his first album, the 2006 First Page. In 2009 came his second recording, a tribute to his late father, and the move to New York City, jazz mecca of the world.


Even with that major change, the most transformative development of Spira’s life has been his marriage to classical vocalist Jessica Goldring and the birth of their son, Léo. For their wedding gift the couple received a piano, and much of New Playground was composed at the keyboard after Léo was put to bed. “I wrote most of the tunes at night between two bottles,” Spira laughs.  

Many of those tunes show off Spira’s gift for lyricism and the winsome way he sings with his soprano. “I love the soprano so much because it gets back to the voice,” he says. “New York is great medicine for your ego because you can see such immense and great players. But I’ve had time now to say this is who I am. I wanted to expose myself honestly and let my personality kick in.” 

Those late-night composition sessions are most vividly reflected on “Nocturne (Song For My Son),” which shows off the composer’s ability to be sentimental without succumbing to mawkishness. His wife’s maiden name is evoked on the classically-tinged “Gold Ring Variations,” which uses a bit of Spira’s cherished wordplay to wink towards the famous Bach piece. “New York Windows” was inspired by “Les fenêtres de Moscou (Moscow Windows),” a traditional Russian song that was a favorite of his father, whose 2007 passing helped spur Spira’s life-changing move. “My father was really into Russian gypsy music, so by extension he loved Django Reinhardt. I was really into jazz and by extension of that, I loved Django. So he always loved when I would play that song with him. I used it as a departure for my song.” 

Family is also evoked in the pulse-pounding opener “Peter’s Run,” penned for a cousin who ran the New York Marathon – and who may be inspired to run another based on the tune’s driving, hand-clapped rhythm. “Underground Ritual” surges with the hectic pace of the NYC subway, but it’s a dedication to Frederic Lebayle, a mouthpiece designer whose basement workshop became a meeting place for saxophonists who ran his designs through their paces. “Ravi Coltrane, Mark Turner, even Wayne Shorter – they’d all come into his basement and play their licks, run through harmonics, go low, check the sounds,” says Spira.  “It was like a ritual.” 

The only piece on the album not written by Spira, Wood’s “Kaleidoscope” features a changing melody over a repeated five-bar cycle, shifting perspective akin to the titular device. The album’s closer, “Solid Wood,” is a self-explanatory dedication to the rock-solid bassist. 

“Life brings surprises,” Spira says succinctly. “I was a late bloomer, but I'm embracing this new life. It’s become a playground for me in the true sense of the term.” 


French-born, New York-based saxophonist Stéphane Spira grew up with jazz the old-school way: in latenight jams and cutting sessions. A protégé of longtime Chet Baker pianist Michel Graillier, Spira's jazz career has taken him from 4 a.m. basement sessions in the underbelly of Paris, through acclaimed collaborations with trumpeter Stéphane Belmondo and pianist Giovanni Mirabassi, to the cutting edge of New York jazz. Trained as an engineer, Stéphane sharpened his chops off the books, after hours, immersing himself in a hard-edged milieu. Perhaps since he honed his chops in the depths of the jazz underground, Spira was spared the awkwardness of growing up in public: Spira's "remarkable maturity” (Radio France) has not gone unnoticed by the critics. Prior to the 2018 New Playground, Spira released four critically acclaimed albums as a bandleader: First Page, Spirabassi (a duo collaboration with pianist Giovanni Mirabassi) and Round About Jobim, a tribute to the father of bossa nova featuring Lionel Belmondo’s acclaimed Hymne au Soleil ensemble, and 2014’s In Between. 

CD Release Concert November 10 at The Cell, NYC

Saxophonist and composer Stéphane Spira honed his jazz chops old-school style, at late-night jams and cutting sessions. Self-taught as a musician, Spira pursued an engineering degree, did a brief stint as an engineer in Saudi Arabia, then in the 1990's headed back to his hometown of Paris to pursue music full time. After 15 years of playing in Paris clubs, woodshedding, and eventually recording two albums, Spira decided to change everything. Soprano saxophone in hand, he moved to New York City and started over.

Joshua Richman – Piano & Fender Rhodes
Steve Wood – Bass
Jimmy Macbride - Drums