JAZZ WEEKLY review by George W. Harris, November 8, 2018
Drummer and percussionist Mike Spinrad joins up with tenor saxist/flutist Guido Fazio to lead a swinging
ensemble with Don Turney/p-org, Richard Conway/tp, Larry Stewart/bari and Eric Lyons-John Hettel-Daniel
Parenti-David Enos/b for eight fun originals. The charts are sleek on “Smarbar” and Fazio digs in deep with
Turney’s B3 on a funky “Bette ‘N Hy” A couple of salsa-inflected pieces include an attractive “Raul” with
some nice piano work and “Manny” which features Fazio’s feathery flute. A charmer that is eager to please.
JERSEY JAZZ, December 2018, Review by Joe Lang
When thinking about jazz composers, drummers are not usually the first instrumentalists mentioned as
creators of melodies. MIKE SPINRAD is one currently active drummer who has a gift for writing nicely
listenable tunes, as is demonstrated by his eight-song program of original material on Horns (Self-
produced). To give life to his music, he has a group with Guido Fazio on tenor sax and flute, Richard
Conway on trumpet and flugelhorn, Larry Stewart on baritone sax, Don Turney on piano and organ, four
different bassists and himself on drums and percussion, with Fazio providing the horn arrangements.
Spinrad creates many different musical mods, ranging from the ballad “Shelia,’ to the boppish “Chaim,” with
a lot of other styles and tempi visited along the way. No matter the nature of the tune, each is distinctly
ear-catching and wonderfully listenable. (cdbaby.com)
Musical Memoirs, DRUMS, PIANO AND HORNS TAKE CENTER STAGE ON NEW CDs
By jazz journalist / Dee Dee McNeil
August 29, 2018
MIKE SPINRAD with GUIDO FAZIO – “HORNS” Spin Radical
Mike Spinrad, drums/percussion/composer; Don Turney, piano/organ/sound engineer; Guido Fazio, tenor
saxophone/flute/horn arranger; Richard Conway, trumpet/ flugelhorn; Larry Stewart, baritone saxophone;
Lyons, John Hettel, Daniel Parenti & David Enos, bass.
Mike Spinrad played drums throughout his youthful school years all the way into college days. He earned
AB in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley; then an MA degree in Counseling from St.
College of California. After securing a teaching certificate, he settled into making a secure living teaching
history, psychology, economics and government at San Marin High School in Northern California. But his
passion for music remained strong. He’s been teaching for fifteen years and performing on the side,
whenever opportunity presented itself. This is his dream-come-true project, where he can express the
composer/ musician inside of him to its fullest extent. This disc is full of creativity. His compositions come
alive with the help and mastery of his close friends and peers.
The “Horns” waltz into my room with harmonic precision, speared by the awesome timing and technique of
Mike Spinrad on drums. “Smarbar” is co-written by Spinrad with pianist John Groves. It’s smart and straight-
ahead. Mike Spinrad has composed or co-composed every tune on this album. All the horn arrangements
are written by Guido Fazio. When you merge these two talented men, (Fazio and Spinrad), the result is a
quality musical product. The second tune is titled “Bette ‘N Hy,” a more funk and contemporary
arrangement, featuring Don Turney on organ. Turney formerly produced Spinrad’s premiere CD and acted as
recording, mixing and mastering engineer on this project. On the third cut, “Chaim” puts us back into a
straight-ahead realm. The horn arrangements scream, ‘big band’, although this is a group of just six
talented men. Spinrad had a specific goal in mind when he decided to create this musical work of art.
“When I decided to do this project, the first person I contacted was Guido Fazio, who arranged the horn
sections, and plays tenor sax and flute on the recording. He’s a monster player with amazing instincts. …
his approach to music mirrors my approach. For me, music needs emotional content. It’s great to listen to
someone with incredible technique, but technique alone doesn’t move me. Guido has great technique and
plays with an incredible amount of heart and soul,” Mike Spinrad shared.
There is something for everyone on this recording. The “Sheila” composition is a sweet and beautiful
ballad and the tune named “Raul” is a Cuban-influenced montuno, named after one of Spinrad’s co-
The Vinyl Anachronist
Friday, August 24, 2018
When you see a contemporary jazz album with a title like Horns, you might reasonably assume it features a
horn player. In this case, however, Horns is a "showcase" for drummer Mike Spinrad. Huh? Well, it's simple.
First of all, this goes back to my insistence that drummers make great bandleaders, as well as composers
and arrangers. This goes against the stereotype of a drummer being more of an athlete and possibly a
mathematician than a musician, and if you're a jazz fan you know that idea is absurd. Secondly, I find
ensembles led by drummers are unusually dynamic and full of the right kind of energy. Is this because the
drummer is directing through momentum? The next time I talk to a jazz drummer/composer, I'll ask that
Spinrad took this particular direction with his new album because he was inspired by his good friend Guido
Fazio, who arranges the horn section here and plays tenor sax and flute. It all goes back to Spinrad's first
album as leader, It's Morning, which was recorded back in 2001. That album featured a simple piano trio.
Spinrad wanted to expand his sound so he added a three-piece horn section (Fazio augmented by horn
player Richard Conway and sax player Larry Stewart) as well as an organ (Don Turney, who also recorded,
mixed and mastered this album), so the title must refer to the inspiration and freedom he discovered in his
compositions when he added those brass muses.
These eight originals, composed mostly by Spinrad, are played in several distinct styles and tempos. He
wanted a different sound for each track, and he knew Fazio could supply the emotional context with his
arrangements. "It's great to listen to someone with incredible technique," Spinrad explains, "but technique
alone doesn't move me. Guido has great technique and plays with an incredible amount of heart and soul."
It must be true, because each of these tracks have a life and an energy that are infectious in constantly
evolving ways—even with the ballads. That goes back to what I said about drummers leading the band.
While there are plenty of solos in Horns, ones indeed full of emotion, it's Spinrad's lithe drumming style
that injects a steady stream of joy into this music. These songs move.
Here's an interesting tidbit about Spinrad—he started off playing in rock and roll bands and slowly
switched over to jazz in high school and college. I've heard this before, rock drummers who move on to
jazz, ostensibly to challenge and refine their talent. (Charlie Watts and Ginger baker both come to mind.)
When I hear a drummer with this kind of background, I always attempt to hear those cues in their music.
Spinrad reveals this once, in "Manny," which emerges as part of his "every song is different" scheme. What
Spinrad proves in Horns is that he's extremely versatile, that he can do anything he wants to when he's
behind his kit. Let's hope he doesn't wait another 17 years before he shows off his talent as a leader and
THE JW Vibe
MIKE SPINRAD with GUIDO FAZIO, Horns
August 19, 2018
Once in a great while, an indie jazz artist jumps in the fray from seemingly out of the blue that captures
our ears, fires up our hearts and snags our soul from the first few notes. That’s what happened the minute I
heard “Smarbar,” the dazzling, free-swinging, sax and trumpet intensive opening track on Horns, drummer
Mike Spinrad’s first recording since a piano trio project in 2001.
So who is this cat and where has he been all our lives as jazz enthusiasts? His bio tells us he’s got five kids
(“Smarbar” is an acronym of their names!), and with a family to support, he’s gigged at night in the Bay
Area while earning his living as a marketing pro, counselor and, for the past fifteen years, a teacher at San
Marin High School. Suffice to say, he’s the hippest, groovin’est history, psychology, economics etc. instructor
you’ll ever learn from. Working with tenor saxophonist and flutist Guido Fazio’s crisp, energetic horn
arrangements, Spinrad creates a vibrant big band sound with only three woodwind players – Fazio,
trumpeter and flugelhornist Richard Conway and baritone saxman Larry Stewart.
Pianist and organist Don Turney and four different bassists are the foundational MVPs. As a composer, the
drummer finds melodically and harmonically imaginative ways to pay homage to influential figures (not
just humans) in his life, including his parents (the vintage boogaloo-flavored “Betty ‘n Hy,”), his father
“Chaim” (who gets a speed-bop shout out), his dog (the sweetly sentimental ballad “Shelia”), a fun-spirited
Cuban co-worker (who inspires the quick-witted rumba magic on “Raul”), his girlfriend (another boppy
delight, “Brooke,” her middle name) and his grandfather (the sensually funky, flute driven “Manny.”
One can imagine all these folks (and the beloved pooch) in the audience, feeling honored by the brilliance
that Spinrad and his energetic band bring forth in their names. A stylistically wide-ranging delight from
start to finish, Horns will have you hoping for more Spinrad extracurricular musical activity in the future!
John Sanders Jassmusicarchives.com MIKE SPINRAD — MIKE SPINRAD WITH GUIDO FAZIO : HORNS
Mike Spinrad is a drummer in San Francisco who also writes original music and “Horns’ is his second CD
release as a band leader. For this new project Spinrad decided to work with a horn led band, hence the title
of the album. To help with this endeavor he enlisted tenor and flute player Guido Fazio, who supplies much
of the horn arrangements as well as many stellar solos, plus Richard Conway on trumpet and flugelhorn,
and on all but two cuts, Larry Stewart on baritone. Rounding out the band are Don Turney on piano and
occasional B3, plus a rotating cast of talented bass players. On first impression, “Horns” recalls classic horn
driven soul jazz artists such as David “Fathead” Newman, or the Adderly Brothers, but this album is much
more than just that, with further listens you will start to hear the variety of styles that Spinrad is working
with, plus his own original and modern nuances that he brings to these compositions and arrangements.
The album opens with the hard bop waltz of “Smarbar”, which is followed by the boogaloo funk of “Bette ‘n
Hy”. Starting with track three, the hard driving bop of “Chaim”, Larry Stewart joins the band on baritone,
which gives the rest of the cuts on the album a mini big band sound, plus a little extra boost in energy.
“Shelia” is the ballad as it supplies the desired abstract pastel colors of today’s post bop sound. This track
bears some resemblance to “All the Things You are Here”, especially towards the end of the song. On “Raul”,
the band heads into Afro-Cuban territory while pianist Don Turney displays his skills with a driving
rhythmic montuno that keeps the tune on time. Finishing up the CD, “Brooke” is a re-working of bop
favorite “Cherokee”, “Manny” is California style Latin soul cha-cha, and “Texarkana” is up tempo swing
This CD has grown on me over the past couple weeks, despite the immediate familiarity of many of the
tracks, this album holds up well to repeat listens. What we have on “Horns” is very unpretentious party jazz
executed with originality and freshness, while avoiding the predictable clichés.
BassMusician.com HORNS, Mike Spinrad with Guido Fazio, Featuring Bassists Eric Lyons, John Hettel,
Daniel Parenti and David Enos
When I received the CD HORNS I thought we had received it by mistake, as it is a drummer (Mike Spinrad),
along with a serious horn section. I went ahead and gave it a listen and was very impressed.
The first thing that Mike did was recruit very solid musicians to play his compositions.
He brought in Guido Fazio to do the horn arrangements. Guido plays tenor sax (his horn has a great tone)
and flute as well. The rest of the band was comprised by Don Turney on piano & organ, Richard Conway on
trumpet & flugelhorn, Larry Stewart on baritone sax. Now here is where it got interesting for me…
Mike brought in four bass players and each one brought his own special twist to the tracks that they
performed on. We have Eric Lyons, John Hettel, Daniel Parenti and David Enos on bass; these guys did a
super-solid job on upright and electric bass.
The music is upbeat instrumental jazz with a nice variety.
They cover a range of bluesy-funk, Cuban Montuno, Boogaloo, Bop and much more. The arrangements are
tight and you can feel the drums driving the tunes. The bass lines are crystal clear in the mix and very
I specially enjoyed the track titled “Raul”, where the bass is really cooking!
Summing up, HORNS is a great addition to any Jazz collection, as it reminds me of how Jazz used to be a
music for the people and is meant to be enjoyed by all. Everybody can dig this one!
- Raul Amador, August 13, 2018
MIKE SPINRAD/Horns: A drummer that has no problem with letting horns lead the way shows us that it's
no big deal to go 17 years between albums. A swinging mainstay of the Bay area jazz scene, this is
wonderful palette cleaning jazz so full of right on playing that it can make instrumental music fans out of
the hardest of hard core beats fans. Loaded with the kind of swing that just means summer water front
bars, he's got the chops that make this hard to resist. All that and his father discovered water on Mars. Talk
about a cat that covers all the bases. Well done. (SpinRadical)
Number 41/Number 283
August 10, 2018
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2018 Midwest Record
Mike Spinrad's IT'S MORNING is a pleasurable, remarkable new CD release. It has a sense of melodic
peacefulness about it that carries over into its lively feel of contemporary jazz musings!
An original outing, Mike Spinrad on drums is accompanied by Fred Zimmerman on piano and Cindy
Browne on acoustic bass. This is a together trio with outstanding solo work; the performers compliment
each other in their joint journeys.
There are 12 selections on the CD....Each song soars with good jazz performance work. Zimmerman's
"Fred's Sunday Blues" is bound to catch all jazz listeners' attention with its unusual tempo and
Spinrad's minor-key bossa nova "Parnasah" will surprise and delight any jazz listener with its
bittersweet jazzy sounds! "For Joe" and "Maxy" and "The Mahn" also present complex interpretations
that please! There is not a sour note among any of the selections in this collection! All notes are on cue
and lovely to jazz along with, and something to return to often. Zimmerman's elegant stylings are
among the best heard today in contemporary jazz recordings. The solo performances of Cindy Browne
and Mike Spinrad sparkle with creativity! The music is original and it is good!
If you enjoy trio music, the combined efforts of Spinrad, Zimmerman, and the very gifted Cindy Browne on
acoustic bass will both surprise and enchant you when IT'S MORNING. Excellent jazz. Buy a copy today!
Reviewed by: Lee Prosser, Jazz At A Glance, Volume 108
Review: It's Morning
The disc conveys the sheer fun in music-making experienced by the trio, not to mention the excitement
they can generate when they are "hitting on all cylinders" in tunes such as Zimmerman's "Fred's Sunday
Reviewed by John R. Raush, Percussive Notes