March 28, 2016

From The Vaults: Time X 5


    Jack Spann is a multitalented singer and songwriter.  His first solo release comes out on April 19, 2016.  It is about time that the world hears his stuff and perhaps that was the genesis of the CD title:  Time, Time, Time, Time, Time.  Our friend and Milwaukee music scene pipeline Gary Tanin at Daystorm Music sent us an advanced copy and it has been an ear-opening experience.  Spann played piano, keyboards, guitar, and bass on the ten tracks that bear both his writing and vocal imprint.  Tanin mentioned that Jack “was a referral by my friend Tony Visconti (David Bowie’s producer) who suggested we work together,” which got my attention.  Gary’s assertion that “Working with him has been a highlight of my production career and I would like to share in the excitement” sealed the deal for me.  If working with Jack Spann is a Gary Tanin career highlight, then I couldn’t get the mailer open fast enough.

    Jack Spann works in New York City, but his musical roots are a bit farther west at Webster University in St.Louis where took classes and gigged as Jon Rosen.  When he left Webster U., he was involved in numerous musical projects around St. Louis, most notably an early version of Vitamin A.  His move to NY left his name behind but not his talent and once there he began to craft a new musical career.  As Thomas Crone ( put it, “As someone able to play across a wide range of styles, he’s been able to craft a unique and fascinating career as Jack Spann, still maintaining his desire to play originals, while serving as an accomplished sideman, studio player, and live accompanist.”

    Time, Time, Time, Time, Time opens with If I’m Ever in Love.  The rolling piano and melodic delivery puts Spann on the piano bench firmly between Billy Joel and Elton John.  The dramatic organ fills are reminiscent of the interchange one hears between Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker and Matthew Fischer.  Spann’s arrangements sound very orchestral because of this piano – organ interplay.

     Track two (Songman)  is both jaunty and jazzy.  Lyrically, Spann tells his stories as well as Joel.

The way the album transitions from Songman to the next track Beautiful Day reminds me of the way Joel’s 52nd Street album strung tunes together that sounded different but kept the story and the feel of the music moving along.  After three tracks, I found myself bobbing my head along with the beat, absorbing the music as much as listening to it.

    Time opens with a darker, brooding chord that rumbles along behind a much different vocal style.  If Donovan had written songs on piano rather than guitar, he would have created music much like this track.  The soundscapes that Tanin and Spann create make you listen.  The rumbling chords hold down the fort while the piano punctuates the vocal line that weaves in and out of the verses and chorus.  Fear and Loyalty again rides the piano – organ duet with great effect.  Introspective lyrics such as “Is it fear, or loyalty, that keeps you in this place / If it is fear, or loyalty, only you can say” are delivered in a very moving way.  Spann’s changing inflections on the word ‘fear’ are interesting because each variation draws a different emotion from that one word.

    Disappearing Girl is fun.  I didn’t see a drummer in the credits but whether these were ‘real’ or ‘programmed’ drums, they add a lot of snap to this particular song.  The drums are a subtle inclusion on quite a few tracks but here they really pop forward.  My Dinosaur takes the ‘fun’ of the previous track and stretches it into ‘silly’.  The vocals match the lyrics perfectly.  The pomposity of some of the piano interludes contrast nicely with the lightness of the lyrics and vocal delivery.

    Games (with guest vocals by Molly Mastrangelo who also appeared on My Dinosaur) reminds me of a Tom Petty – Stevie Nicks collaboration.  They sing around each other as much as they harmonize together.  The whole album is littered with very hummable tunes and this one really stuck with me.

    The album wraps up with Everybody’s Stained and The Breakdown.  The mood goes from ‘gloomy’ in Stained to ‘bouncy’ in Breakdown yet the observations on the human condition in both tunes are in a similar vein.  Still, the ‘gloomy samba’ of Stained and the ‘happy-shiny bop’ of Breakdown left me strangely elevated despite the lyrics ‘crappy stuff happens’ sentiments.  Gary Tanin also gets a nod for additional keyboards on all songs on this album except Breakdown.

    Time, Time, Time, Time, Time will be available on digital and Cd formats on April 19 on Big Boo Music.  

The top piece video shows Jack Spann performing Fear or Loyalty from his new CD.

And now the rest of the story that only recently surfaced about Jack Spann {March 31, 2016}:

“Around the music community of New York, his home since 1999, he’s known as Jack Spann. In St. Louis, many more will remember him as Jon Rosen, a Webster University grad who gigged in all kinds of band-and-solo contexts throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In both places, he’s known as a keyboardist of unusual range and skill, able to play on pretty much any project offered.

His talents have landed him a variety of gigs over the years, but he wasn’t able to discuss one of them until recently. Even now, he’s contractually (and, to some degree, ethically) unable to tell the entire story of a three-days-and-change gig in 2014. The short version: Spann played with David Bowie during the run-up to the rock legend’s final album, the magnificent Blackstar.

“A mutual friend introduced me to Tony Visconti, maybe April or May of 2014,” Spann says, citing Bowie’s frequent producer and arranger. “He’d gone to my site, I guess, and then called me one day, out of the blue.” ‘We need a piano player who can play jazz, can play rock, but not jazz-rock. We don’t want Chick Corea.’ He and Bowie had been listening to a lot of Stan Kenton, the white Thelonious Monk. I called him back and went into the studio the next morning.”

There, Spann recalls, “This guy walked up to me at 9:55 a.m. ‘Hello, Jack, I’m David. We’re going to have a great time.’ ‘Oh, hi David.’ Really, it’s hard to describe how nice he was to me. He was really, really genuinely interested in how and what I was playing. Overall, he was just a delight to work with.” – Thomas Crone –

Meeting David Bowie and working on song demos for Blackstar led Jack Spann to working with producer Gary Tanin (Sam Llanas, Daryl Stuermer, Roger Powell) and the making of Jack’s first full length studio album “Time, Time, Time, Time, Time.”

Excerpted from :

Music Industry News Network  Mach 28, 2016