JT Video Premiere: Greg Spero & Spirit Fingers’ “release”

Live video from L.A.-based keyboardist and company features high-performance postbop with flashes of fusion

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Greg Spero (seated) and Spirit Fingers (photo by Doug Stratton)

When you go to Greg Spero’s website and click on the Bio tab, this is what you see: i create music. The 33-year-old pianist, composer and producer has been doing just that since early childhood and has performed and recorded within a number of different genres and formats. In addition to his work in hip-hop production and film scores, his credits include the Buddy Rich Big Band, Arturo Sandoval, hit-making pop artist Halsey and Miles alumnus Robert Irving III, an early mentor.

Last month, Spero and Spirit Fingers, the Los Angeles-based quartet for which he serves as bandleader, pianist and chief composer and arranger, released its new eponymous dozen-track collection on Shanachie Records. JazzTimes is pleased to premiere this extended live-video version of the album track “release.” In addition to Spero on piano, Spirit Fingers features Hadrien Feraud (bass), Dario Chiazzolino (guitar) and Mike Mitchell (drums).

“This tune was born in the hallway of a hotel in Miami,” Spero writes to JazzTimes in an email. “When I was touring with Halsey, I would often find an unguarded piano tucked away in whichever hotel we were staying at, where I could practice and compose. I would improvise sometimes for hours on end, exploring melodic and harmonic ideas. This particular night, a 7/4 riff came to me that was particularly powerful. For the final composition, I took this riff and overlaid an elongated 4/4, which resulted in a displacement over the 7/4 ostinato that only aligned once every seven measures. I wrote a melody that aligns rhythmically with the long 4/4, but harmonically with the short 7/4. The result is a feeling of randomness that actually makes sense and is held together by the essence of the music itself: rhythm, melody and harmony. It pulls the listener left and right but is always pointing in the same direction.

“This reflects the state of the world,” Spero says, when asked about the track’s emotional or narrative meaning. “We are pulled left and right by opposing forces that create a very confusing landscape, yet the chaotic nature of our existence serves as the fertile ground and motivation for us to be introspective, work together and walk in the same direction toward a greater state of existence.”

The lengthy cut, like Spero’s music on the whole, reflects heavy-duty jazz learning without being pedantic. Certain elements, especially Feraud’s electric-bass virtuosity, evoke heyday fusion, but the overall strategy—dynamic ensemble passages that gather intensity; lengthy solo sections that act as compositions-within-the-composition—are pure postbop.

The video, shot and edited by Eric Lloyd, captures a performance at LP/Tiny Room Studios in L.A. The audio was recorded by Eric Bard and mixed by Randy Emata.

For more on Greg Spero, visit his official website. Preview music by Spirit Fingers through Apple Music.