Spare Parts ‘Warehaus West Sessions Vol. 1’ CD/DIG (Ropeadope) 5/5

spare-partsHad this album been released 40 years ago it probably would have been in small quantities on a local Chicago label (the band are based there) or as a private press, a forgotten gem only to be sought out years later by collectors for inflated prices. I say this partly because the music they play reminds me of the Jazz Fusion supergroups of the early ‘70s, but also because you get the sense that whilst the band have developed a local following they lack broader recognition. Now though Chicago, Illinois is just a click away. Spare Parts are Kevin Kozol (Fender Rhodes, Moog Little Phatty and Hohner Clavinet C), Colin Scott (electric bass) and Mike Bruno (drums and percussion). Scott and Bruno began playing together at high school, before forming the band with Kozol at Southern Illinois University in the early Noughties. Since then they have built a solid reputation as a live band performing in and around Chicago. “Warehaus Sessions..” is their sixth album to date.
Their music is not so much influenced as immersed in the sounds of ‘70s Jazz Fusion and groups like The Headhunters and The Tony Williams Lifetime, with shades of Bob James and George Duke thrown in for good measure. In my book that’s really no bad thing. Over time the term Jazz Fusion has become synonymous with radio-friendly smooth jazz, but in its early years this electrified sound felt groundbreaking, spawning classic albums like “Agharta”, “Head Hunters”, “Light as a Feather” and “Emergency”. That said this isn’t just music for nostalgia’s sake; it’s living and breathing with modern sensibilities.

This is a great little album packed with melodic, funk-filled, fluid grooves. The compositions, five of which were written by Kozol, are vividly captured, the “Session” really feeling fresh and live. Whilst the results are a group effort, the lasting takeaway is of Kozol’s playing, which provides a fantastically broad spectrum of sounds and textures, some layered or overlapping, others more linear, but all flowing quite effortlessly.

Highlighting individual tracks feels churlish within such a consistent set, but gun to my head I’d pick the slightly progressive vibe of “V6”, featuring guitarist Fareed Haque on solo and the tender, blissful “Park Avenue” featuring another guest, saxophonist Rajiv Hakim.

Elsewhere the cover of Joshua Redman’s “Jazz Crimes” is fairly faithful to the original, except the organ and sax lines are replaced by synths and a neat bass solo. Led Zeppelin’s “Four Sticks” is the other cover; an interesting choice, with rockier overtones and a heavier rhythm line.

Once you realise that there is a world of great music outside mainstream radio playlists, opportunities to ‘find’ albums like this are almost endless. Don’t let the self-deprecating name put you off, Spare Parts, are anything but.

Andy Hazell