Greg Spero + Spirit Fingers ‘Peace’ CD (Ropeadope) 5/5

Now aligned with Philadelphia’s Ropeadope Records, the dynamic jazz quartet Spirit Fingers release their new album ‘Peace’. Headed up by pianist Greg Spero, ‘Peace’ marks the second album from Spirit Fingers with their debut, self-titled project, released in 2018 through Shanachie, proving a strong success for the collective. And what a collective! Joining Spero on this glorious rollercoaster-esque, high energy style of jazz is drummer Mike Mitchell (The Stanley Clarke Band, Natalie Cressman), bassist Max Gerl (Jon Bap, Blaque Dynamite) and guitarist Dario Chiazzolino (Billy Cobham, Dave Liebman).

For the pianist that can boast having been mentored by Herbie Hancock and having spent five years touring with pop star Halsey, Spero himself is coming off a fairly productive run of releases and collaborations following appearances on Tensei’s ‘Constellate’ release (Tokyo Dawn, 2019), Makaya McCraven’s Gil Scott-Heron remix project ‘We’re New Again’ and new collaboration which pairs Spero with The Chicago Experiment for their new single, ‘Maxwell Street’, again for Ropeadope Records this year. But as the only three words in the bio section on Spero’s website specifies, “i create music” so this level of output over the past two years shouldn’t surprise anyone. Which brings us to his latest project, ‘Peace’…

As flawless as the core quartet sound together, ‘Peace’ also benefits from the addition of guests including saxophonist Braxton Cook (‘Spirit Food’), Jonathan Scales (‘Lamella’) and vocalist Judi Jackson who, with the opportunity to appear on four of the album’s thirteen tracks, delivers a fantastic contribution to the album. Poised for great success herself having chalked up collaborations with Kassa Overall, Ashley Henry and Snarky Puppy, I’d also turn your attention to Jackson’s ‘Live in London’ set (Lateralize Records, 2018) for an even further display of her excellent vocal. On top of that, Chicago drummer and producer Makaya McCraven resumes the production duties he assumed alongside Spero for the debut Spirit Fingers release rounding out another indelible aspect to the album.

From the explosiveness of the album’s opening number, ‘Nails’, to the ethereal tone of its closer, ‘Saltwater’, it’s very clear to decipher, very quickly, that you’re in the midst of something incredibly special. Yes, it’s undeniably joyful – a real pleasure to listen to creatively – but just listening to these songs feeds this almost cyclical analysis of the music that’s unfolding before you. The incredible energy encapsulated through songs like the aforementioned ‘Nails’, ‘Spirit Food’ and ‘Cokes With Gregs’ leads you to the natural assumption that there’s a strong improvisational element within these compositions that defines the unhinged creative freedom embodied in the songs; but then there’s such precision throughout – not a wasted moment or note – which then leads you to believe the music has been meticulously planned out almost to a scientific level of perfection.

And ultimately, therein lays its brilliance.

Imran Mirza

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Spirit Fingers ‘Spirit Fingers’ 2LP/CD (Shanachie) 5/5