Fresh off the heels of another successful Camp Bisco comes the debut release from SPAGA, a new and exciting Philadelphia-based jazz trio that blends intricate soundscapes and piano-driven melodies with a sturdy rhythm section that’s more than open to improvisation. This new project is the brain child of Disco Biscuits keyboardist Aron Magner, whose delicate piano play fuels the self-titled release. Jason Fraticelli (upright bass) and Matt Scarano (drums) round out this latest addition to the burgeoning Philadelphia music scene, who recently performed at Xerox Rochester International Jazz Fest.
Those expecting to hear songs similar in intensity and fashion to what the Disco Biscuits live catalog provides should look elsewhere, although there is a track (“Resurrection”) that fans will certainly recognize here. Instead, SPAGA offers a more relaxed and intimate musical environment that’s both technically proficient yet still malleable enough to explore new boundaries. The interplay between these three masters of their respective crafts on this record helps create moods that can range from brooding to blissful, sometimes within the same track. With seemingly only minimal post-production effects mixed in, this “mostly acoustic” album instead pays more attention to the organic nature and simplicity of a three-piece band that’s still able to produce a powerful and engaging sound.
A mix of styles begins the album as tenacious drum work and a foreboding bass line are joined by some ethereal piano-driven melodies, a practice common throughout. By the end, the opening track “Creed” develops a light and pleasant tone before slinking away with the return of the darker opening theme. “Marionette in the Snow,” which follows, may be the most enjoyable listen on SPAGA as it takes the listener on a true journey lasting near nine minutes. A joyous main theme gives way to some crispy drum and bass work, giving Fraticelli and Scarano a chance to take the reigns for a little and show off their chops. “Four Angels” produces an ambient and almost spooky soundscape at its outset before a comfortable groove is established, accentuated by more Magner-crafted melodies on the grand piano. And fans will surely recognize “Resurrection,” an instrumental take on the Disco Biscuits song that flows back and forth between two main thematic tempos, serving as almost a nod to the original and recently re-worked styles in which the song is played live.
The album may only have six tracks, but each is a unique and easy listen that touches on distinctive elements of jazz, rock and improv that certainly lends itself to a world of possibilities in a live setting. For now, the album, which will be released on Magner’s own label AM Records on July 26, will have to suffice. But the band does have tour dates planned for later this summer as seen below, including a date at New York City’s (Le) Poisson Rouge, serving as the next stage of this musical exploration that’s off to a very promising start. For more information and to purchase tickets for upcoming shows, visit the SPAGA official website.
August 6 – Fort Collins, CO – Washington’s
August 7 – Denver, CO – Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
August 8 – Steamboat Springs, CO – Old Town Pub
August 10 – Telluride, CO – Telluride Jazz Festival
August 10 – Telluride, CO – Sheridan Opera House
August 11 – Crested Butte, CO – Center for the Arts
September 6 – Ardmore, PA – The Ardmore Music Hall
September 7 – New York, NY – (Le) Poisson Rouge
September 21 – Slippery Rock, PA – Resonance Festival
January 7 – Miami, FL – MSC Divina