Stephane Spira – New Playground (2018)

Stephane Spira - New Playground (2018)
Artist: Stephane Spira
Album: New Playground
Genre: Contemporary Jazz
Origin: France
Released: 2018
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Tracklist:
Peter’s Run 06:06
Gold Ring Variations 09:59
New York Windows 06:45
Underground Ritual 07:42
Nocturne (Song for My Son) 09:11
New Playground 06:36
Kaleidoscope 04:35
Solid Wood 06:32

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Soprano has never been my favourite member of the saxophone family. Neither the ten-miles wide vibrato of Sidney Bechet nor the painful harmonic extremities of the latter-day John Coltrane have floated my boat so it was with some trepidation that I approached this album. Spira, a French-born resident of New York had me wondering, given Bechet’s years in Paris and Trane’s time in New York, if this was going to be an unholy marriage of the two extremes?

Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. Spira has a liquidity of tone that ticks all the right boxes whilst managing to keep the listener interested with his ideas and compositions.

Self-taught, the former Parisian is described as having honed his jazz chops old-school style, at late-night jams and cutting sessions. However, music wasn’t his first priority – earning a living took precedence and this he did by pursuing an engineering degree that took him to Saudi Arabia.

1990 saw him back in Paris, woodshedding and jamming for 15 years before making the life-changing decision to move to New York.
A late-blooming jazzman, all those years playing in dimly-lit basements have paid off in this, his second New York recording.
Lyrical, explorative and swinging in a contemporary manner – if Paul Desmond had played soprano he may have sounded like this.

His fellow musicians are much more than mere sidemen, each contributing at the same high level as the leader. Wood, not only fulfilling the traditional bass player’s role but also putting in some fine arco work. Richman too is a sympathetic accompanist as well as being a sparkling soloist in his own right whilst drummer Macbride (correct spelling!) is sensitive when sensitivity is called for and not left behind when the gas pedal is pushed to the floor.

Although not released until Sept. 21, here’s a link to whet your appetite and to connect with his previous albums from both New York and Paris.
Review by Lance

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