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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Greg Spero Quartet @ Dacre Hall, Lanercost Priory - Sept. 12

Greg Spero (pno); John Pope (bs/bs gtr); Russ Morgan (dms); Roz Sluman (sax/fl) + Jack Moore (alt).
(Review by Peter Ninnim)
 I’d missed Greg Spero on his previous visits to the North East so I was pleased to have the chance to hear him at a venue new to me. David Gosling and his team are doing a great job putting on class, well supported, jazz concerts in this historic setting. Not knowing what to expect, it was good to see the room full, with perhaps 70 people. The hall was dressed with great care, a proper low level stage, excellent sound system and a bar with hand pull beer; what a pity I was driving!
I'd had no advance info re the music on offer but, after seeing the band line up, I knew it would be good. Greg was using the exciting sax player Roz Sluman on flute, alto and tenor; the bundle of fun John Pope on acoustic bass and 5 string electric and the outstanding Russ Morgan on drums. The band had only met up at 2.00pm - spending the afternoon working out the set.
Impressive!  
The majority of the numbers were Spero’s own compositions and, to say the least, difficult!
First up was Shades. Not sure if that was the full title but, as he explained it, was on the new album to be called Polyphonic. The fact that it was in 17/16 time (I kid you not) wasn’t immediately apparent  although, as far as I could see, Morgan was right on top of it and, in truth, it wasn’t a great all round performance, Pope, as usual, all over the acoustic bass in brilliant style. Spero followed this up with a version of Blackbird which did him no favours with me, but the audience seemed to like it. This was followed by Actual Proof and then Tune 12 off the new album. This had all the band feverishly turning over music as actually he was playing Tune 11! However, it all sounded good and had impressive solos all round. Next a Chick Corea number with great drumming by Morgan. When we actually heard Tune 12 it turned out to be a polyphonic tune with the left hand in 3/4 and the right hand in 4/4, still sounded good though. There were a few other tunes particularly one by Herbie Hancock but I just could not get all the titles.
After an appealing vocal, No Rest For the Weary, the programme concluded with Slide for which Spero called up Alto player Jack Moore to join Sluman on stage. Moore is a 13 years old up and coming Jazz talent; I look forward to hearing him in the years to come.  Greg Spero is a very accomplished and versatile pianist and his outgoing personality definitely won over the audience.
There were a few piano introductions which started out like lift music, although very good lift music. But I’m being picky as the whole concert was first class mainly in the Jazz fusion genre and I would be keen to see him again. An excellent concert at a great venue.
Peter N.

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