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Judge for Ed Spargo

North Billerca, MA
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Portrait of Ed Spargo
from - Jazz Improv Magazin

By Clive Griffin | Volume 7 #3 Summer 200

For the past 20 or more years, bassist Ed Spargo has planted firm roots in the Boston area. His reputation as one of the solid players in the region has multiplied over time. As a bass player, he often plays the role of accompanist. Instrumentalist in that position run the risk of getting overlooked in a band – often unintentionally deferring attention to the more high profile soloists whom he accompanies. Clearly not one to be lost in the back, Spargo finally recorded his first CD in 1998, eponymously titled, Ed Spargo. He indicated that improvisation is essential to his music-making. His concept is reflected effectively in his latest release Playroom

Expectedly, his style has developed and like fine wine, the richness of tone, technique and ideas are all in place, as evidenced here. No doubt this is just the beginning of the ongoing journey – and a great place from which to pursue his muse. While his first album in 1998 assimilated his favorite three styles of this music – Latin, funk and straight ahead jazz, Ed Spargo’s album Playroom is focused on the Latin and contemporary sides of his personality.

Playroom is a noteworthy snapshot of Spargo’s talents. He surrounds himself with a handful of seasoned, well-known players with pedigrees in some of the more well-known fusion bands. Tom Brechtlein played with Chick Corea, and Steve Hunt has performed with Stanley Clarke, Billy Cobham, Allan Holdsworth among others. Spargo made a smart move. Not only could he count on these superb players to deliver great music, they also serve as a palpable source of inspiration in his own performance. Spargo seamlessly draws all of the players and elements toward him and creates a compelling colorful tapestry.

The first track is “Min.” It’s laid back for an opener. It’s got a contemporary groove, overlayed with a simple melodic motif. There are no showy chops on Spargo’s part here. He simply lays down pure groove. Dino Govoni opens up on soprano sax – and fleetly traverses the range of the horn.

“Brother Andrew” kicks the tempo up, add a floating Latin groove. Spargo is right in the pocket driving this lively piece home.

If you enjoy dancing like I do, I felt like I wanted to move my feet from the first note on “Toy Box.” It is a lively Latin number solidified by a Mambo-like groove underneath. Don’t think this is what you would have heard in the showroom at a Catskills summer resort in the 1950s, 60s or 70s. Watch your step. Here, the melody is overdubbed to give the impression of two horns. Govoni is on tenor here and displays his formidable technique – clearly influenced by Michael Brecker, as so many tenor sax players of this generation have been. Steve Hunt follows with another energized solo, showcasing his own well-honed chops.

In addition to his muscular bass playing, and solid time, Spargo composed all of the songs on the album except “Road Song” by Wes Montgomery. He gives this standard a more edgy treatment than Montgomery did on the original from the 1960s

The tenor of Playroom is decidedly in the contemporary side – the grooves and the melodies take it there. The musicianship and the quality of the recording is absolutely top-shelf from end to end. The driving solos, harmonically-sophisticated language and rhythmic acrobatic and syncopation of all three soloists – saxophonist Govoni, pianist Steve Hunt and drummer Tom Brechtlein – combine to make Playroom artful and playful. Spargo made all the right choices in terms of repertoire, apropos personnel, mixing and creating a happy album and impressive showcase for his talents.