Steve LaSpina: Play Room (2007)
The title cut serves as the album's mission statement, placing avant-garde sensibilities within a bop framework. Dave Ballou and Billy Drewes banter mischievously on trumpet and soprano sax, and Gary Versace barks on the Hammond B-3. The shifting time signatures contribute to the overall feeling of spontaneity.
"Do The Math is a more conventional mid-tempo tune, with LaSpina's pizzicato and Versace's excellent piano complementing each other. The three-part suite ("It's Just Crazy -"It Never Ends -"That Explains It ) begins slowly, with LaSpina's dolorous plucking and measured playing by Drewes and Ballou. The suite gathers steam, then opens the valves to the most straight-ahead playing on the album, highlighted by Drewes' gritty tenor sax.
The album pauses for breath with "Melissa, a heartfelt duet by LaSpina and Versace, dominated by LaSpina's robust pizzicato. Then it's back on the treadmill with "On The Run, where Drewes' fluttering soprano works with Ballou's Harmon-muted trumpet. "Ashcroft Avenue continues the dynamism between Drewes and Ballou (on flugelhorn here), with some splendid piano from Versace. LaSpina's arco on "Just Because sounds like a man explaining why he's down on his luck, with Versace's initially nuanced and eventually spiraling organ serving as a sympathetic audience. And that's the trademark of Play Room: throughout the album the musicians don't seem to be playing their instruments as much as having a series of organized, spirited conversations.
Track Listing: Play Room; Do the Math; Suite: it's Just Crazy--it Never Ends--That Explains It; Melissa; On the Run; Ashcroft Avenue; Just Because.
Personnel: Steve LaSpina: bass; Dave Ballou: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Billy Drewes: saxophone; Gary Versace: Hammond B-3 organ, piano; Jeff Hirshfield: drums.
Record Label: SteepleChase Records