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Album Review

Steve Hirsh: Sparks


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Steve Hirsh: Sparks
Listeners are inclined to classify music into categories. There's trad jazz, bebop, hard bop, post bop, avant-garde, free jazz, third stream, free improvisation, fusion, and the list goes on and on. Needless to say, pigeonholes are for the birds. One might agree after listening to Sparks by Eri Yamamoto, Chad Fowler, William Parker, and Steve Hirsh.

The quartet characterizes this two disc set of feel good (actually, extra feel good) music as "spontaneous folk music." This in not a new category as much as a description of exceptional music in each and every category. Yamamoto has released a string of stellar piano recordings for AUM Fidelity and she has collaborated with the legendary bassist William Parker on multiple dates. With Sparks the pair team up with saxophonist Chad Fowler, who is a member of Dopolarians with Parker, and drummer Steve Hirsh. Hirsh released the duo Warp & Weft (Mahakala, 2021) with pianist Joel Futterman.

The five lengthy pieces (the shortest being the title track at just under 15 minutes) present a mostly relaxed flow of enlightened and civilized music making. "Sparks" opens the set as a loping blues, Yamamoto's piano draws figures allowing Parker and Hirsh to set the stage for Fowler's horn to broadcast his missive. Perhaps a better word would be "preach." Indeed, Fowler's sound on stritch and saxello throughout the recording is one of communal evangelization. The quartet trades in a simple and beautiful motif with "In The Garden" where the melody is repeated, reworked, and shaped into a cozy and agreeable sound with each musician molding the same malleable material. The quartet covers Parker's "Bob's Pink Cadillac" from an album of the same name released in 2001. The music skips and dances as it picks up momentum, whirling with agitation. Yamamoto's piano accelerates, as does Hirsh's cymbal work, and Parker's bass acts as a centrifuge which tries, unsuccessfully, to separate the various parts. Sound does get deconstructed with "Real World" where the quartet ventures into the realm of energy music. The cordial nature of the first four tracks is replaced with a bit of animus. But as they say, you can't make a musical omelet without breaking a few eggs.

Track Listing

Sparks; In The Garden; Bob's Pink Cadillac; Taiko; Real World.


Steve Hirsh: drums; Eri Yamamoto: piano; Chad Fowler: saxophone, alto; William Parker: bass.

Album information

Title: Sparks | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Mahakala Music

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