Saturday night, JB, IB, and I went to Andy’s Jazz Club to hear Greg Spero, a jazz and fusion pianist that IB went to school with at the U of I. In fact both of them lived in Allen Hall, the artsy dorm on campus. Two years ago we had attended another concert of his at the Fine Arts Building in Chicago where JB had taken photographic images which he later used in a painting dedicated to Spero. JB tried over these past few years to get the painting to Greg who had since moved to LA. To make a long story short, Greg had texted IB to tell him to bring the painting to Andy’s.
Spero played a remarkable set of his latest compositions, mostly from his newest album “Electric” which was recently nominated for a 2015 Grammy for Best Jazz Album. Watching, listening to him play, filled me with a poignancy of the precious and fleeting gift of music so passionately and generously given. Art performed live is so intimate and honest, connected, filled with risk and presence. Spero’s skills at the keyboard are fluid, inventive, versatile, and complex—absolutely engaging. He even played his “key-tar” for one composition (see photo at the end of post). After this first set, the painting was delivered.
JB had rendered a portrait of Spero and a close-up of his hands on the keyboard based on when Spero had played his composition “Hills” back in 2012. Spero knew exactly where in the song those exact notes were played (He is explaining this to us in the photo below). JB painted an image of a lotus and a buddha bridging the images of Spero. (Spero is a Buddhist.)
This is all to say that Spero was delighted, surprised, touched by JB’s kind gift. The two compositions intersecting and in tune. A confluence of rhythm, color, and improvisation.