Danny Spencer

Live at the D.I.A.

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Detroit jazz drummer Danny Spencer left Detroit for San Francisco in the '80s, and left a big void in the scene, as he performed with many of the cities top musicians. As he was leaving, this session at the Detroit Institute of Arts was recorded and mastered for this double-CD set from an archived cassette tape. The sound quality of this session is actually very good, and has enough clarity and separation to be able to hear the gifts of these fine local players, all of them with national and international credits and reputations. Longtime friend from the days of the Contemporary Jazz Quintet, pianist Kenn Cox is here lending his chord compings and shadings, as well as a composition. The tart, sweet alto sax of the talented and underrated Phil Lasley, and vibraphonist Bob Allison, who concentrated at the time on teaching and playing children's music, are here. The fine percussionist David Koether, who collaborated with Spencer in the bands of Larry Nozero, and rock-solid bassist John Dana, round out the sextet. Spencer is a brawny, excitable, and svelte performer who always has a knack for when to propel the band ever forward without rushing. He also composed the three pieces on the first disc, charts that were also part of the repertoire of the Lincoln Street Music Company, a short-lived co-op group featuring Spencer, Dana, Lasley, pianist Keith Vreeland, saxophonist Faruq Z. Bey, and trumpeter Doug Halladay. "Dorian" has a cheerful modal melody courtesy of Lasley and Allison, urged on by Spencer's cooking drumming, with Cox and Allison jibing. The foreboding "Inner Beckonings" with Dana's lithe basslines, crossect with a deliberate stairstep melody warding off each other. "Welcome" resembles a longish Charlie Parker like ballad to blues, clocking in at 21 minutes. CD two features "Felicia's Waltz," a showcase for his beautifully rendered and original alto sax sound, as he and Cox shine on their witty and interesting solos. "So Be It" is one in a stack of originals written by Cox and played by the pianist and drummer going back to their CJQ days. It's a post-bop gem with solo drum inserts in the melody with a muted vibes solo. This may be a difficult item to find, but it's worth the search, especially for those curious about the inner workings of the modern jazz scene in a still vibrant Detroit of the '70s, '80s, and beyond.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
13:02
2
16:22
3
21:06

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 11:18
2
17:19
blue highlight denotes track pick