Variety is said to be the spice of life and it's also a big plus for music. What stands out on this record is variety of the broadest measure.
Pianist Greg Spero has a diverse resume that includes assembling this powerful quartet boasting guitarist Dario Chiazzolino and the mighty rhythm section of bassist Max Gerl and drummer Mike Mitchell, along with some excellent guests. Mainly, this release advances the promise of the band's debut album from 2018 (with previous bassist Hadrien Feraud).
"Nails" picks up a Mahavishnu Orchestra path, while the speedy switches in "Spirit Food" could be classified as techno bop. However it might be defined, the piece is a highlight with guest Braxton Cook adding some serious saxophone smoke. "Kalasnikov" aligns group guitars for a rocking ride.
Perky vocalist Judi Jackson adds yet another dimension to the record on four songs, and probably deserves at least an honorary affiliation in the crew for her contributions including the scat on "London Blues" and a misty narrative on "Goodbye," which was released as a single.
"Nolo" is a brief interlude featuring guest bassist Bubby Lewis in a prelude to some excellent saxophone work by Greg Ward on "Cokes With Greg," one of the record's most resounding cuts. Progressive patterns on "Cross Twine" put another layer on the deep chemistry between Spero and Chiazzolino as the pianist stretches out with searing six-string support.
"Lamella" is a rapid-fire dose of space calypso with guest steel pannist Jonathan Scales. Mitchell hits warp speed again and furthers a strong case that on an album of masterful performances, he's the MVP. "Earthbound" shows what bassist Gerl brings to the turntable, as the song resounds with thick poignancy. "Saltwater" wraps things up with calm, reflective confidence on a dialogue between guitar and keys.
At the end of the record, somebody says what sounds like "We can stop and do that a million times." Maybe, maybe not. First impressions of the record were actually stronger than the second time around but still, after half a dozen listens the "spirit" remained strong and the "fingers" kept pointing upward.
Massive portions of originality can be overwhelming, but that's no problem at all for this dynamic band. There is much here to enjoy.
Nails; Spirit Food; Kalashnikov; Goodbye; London Blues; Earthbound; Nolo; Cokes With Gregs; Cross Twine;
Lamella; I'll Be Around; Lest We Forget; Saltwater