FAME Review: Greg Spero - Electric
Greg Spero - Electric


Greg Spero

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Greg Spero's a keyboardist whose fondness for middle (Headhunters) and later period (Rockit) Herbie Hancock is evident right from the git-go, but there are also huge swaths of Joe Zawinul and Pat Moraz's solo work abounding, not to mention bits of Beppe Crovella (Arti y Mestieri) and Pat Gleeson, even traces of Larry Fast (Synergy). Following the spacy intro, fanfare, and swell of Introduction: Turn It Up, the song Raga may be Carnatically inspired, but it's actually bop-raga if anything at all, a funky clav-tracked ass-shaker that dances across the floor, signaling to hipster vacationers from Mercury to come and join the party. Makaya McCracken's drums are huge in the soundpool of the disc, oft reminiscent of Williams and Cobham but highly judicious as well, fierce when needed, laid out for contrast. Junius Paul fits his bass in between his cavorting cohorts, making sure no section lacks subtle colorations or pulse.

The Interlude songs are a good deal more classico-progressive, gorgeous sketches that really deserve lengthy revisitation at some point in the future, what the Windham Hill label would have eventually turned towards had it evolved in logical progression after Will Ackerman's highly affective Passages (remember: the label carried a reprint of Shadowfax's Mahavishnu-esque Watercourse Way very early on, and much of Electric is solidly in league with that wondrous LP, not to mention also with Utopia's not-to-be-repeated [dammit!] first release). Fly sounds like Bill Evans on speed, Paul burbling away in the background, McCraven zipping all around the two. Interestingly, Spero, for all his forceful, velocity-driven, careening keyboard lines, takes on the aspect of a young college kid when singing The Beatles' Blackbird, a youth who might have listened to Kenny Rankin's version and wanted to inject a bit of pep into the rendition.

If you recall Pat Vidas' old Flight ensemble, then you remember Jim 'Fizzwah' Yaeger and his keys, and Fly, ironically enough (Fly and Flight…get it?), is solidly in that territory, with some David Sancious tossed in for good measure, Paul once more filling in all the niches. Spero is obviously a cat who champs at the bit the moment the lights come up, eager to yank his cosmic boogie boots on and get the house shakin'. Electric is infectious for that reason, and I'm damned if I can quite place it anywhere easily categorizable. Miles Davis' old producer-director Robert Irving III calls the disc 'jazz' and it is, but it also isn't. Nor is it strictly prog nor fusion. Nonetheless, this is a powerful trio, each player perfectly fitted to the task and if you find yourself thirsty for some heady Jovian Joy Juice…well then, you got the point.

Track List:

  • Turn It Up (Introduction)
  • Raga
  • Up Too Late
  • Interlude 3
  • Blackbird (Lennon / McCartney)
  • Song 21
  • Interlude 21
  • No Rest for the Weary (Yastrow / Spero)
  • Interlude 4
  • Fly
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Arlen / Harburg)
All songs written by Greg Spero except as noted.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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