Spero Plays Nyro
The Christine Spero Group
A heartfelt tribute to one of the greatest pop and jazz songwriters of the 20th century. Laura Nyro's music was covered by the Fifth Dimension, Three Dog Night, Barbra Streisand, Peter, Paul and Mary and Blood, Sweat and Tears in the 1960s and 70s.
In a new, one-of-a-kind show, “Spero Plays Nyro,” pianist/singer, Christine Spero and her group keep the magic of Laura Nyro’s music alive while infusing it with their own unique personality. The new Cd, "Spero Plays Nyro" captures the essence of this show. Christine's new piece, "Laura and John ", an homage to Laura and John Coltrane is included. Laura Nyro was the quintessential singer/songwriter/pianist whose groundbreaking music crossed the genres of folk, rock, pop and jazz. Many of Laura's songs became major pop hits for a diverse range of artists such as The 5th Dimension ("Wedding Bell Blues," "Stoned Soul Picnic"), Barbara Streisand ("Stoney End"), Three Dog Night ("Eli's Coming") and Blood Sweat & Tears ("And When I Die"). Her premature passing in 1997 shocked her fans and in 2012 she was posthumously inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
Christine Spero, Winner and Finalist of the USA Songwriting Competition Jazz/category, had her start in the music business as a teen with legendary producer Don Kirschner and Neil Sedaka. She earned numerous accolades for her melodic, emotionally powerful and soulful writing and performing. Christine has loved Laura's music from a young age when she was given a promotional copy of "Eli and the Thirteenth Confession" by a college radio DJ friend. She was inspired by Laura's music to be bold in writing, singing, and playing piano and her two Cds, "We Call it Music" and "My Spanish Dream" have received strong press from USA Today, Billboard, JazzTimes, JAZZIZ, Time Out New York and The Village Voice. You can find her music streaming on Pandora, Jango, Spotify. Downloads available on itunes.
Along with Christine, the group, consisting of bassist Scott Petito, (James and Livingston Taylor, Dave Brubeck, Michael Franks), drummer Peter O'Brien (Orleans, Edgar Winter) and saxophonist/percussionist Elliot Spero, displays all of the attributes of experienced accompaniment accomplished only by years of experience in the pop and jazz trade.
CD Review From Laura Nyro's brother. Christine is keeping Laura's flame burning strong! “Laura’s music is in fine hands with Christine Spero who is a terrific musician. She can play and sing Laura’s songs like few others. She knows this music inside out, and rises to the challenge on each song singing with expressiveness and power. At times her voice sounds like she could be Laura’s twin sister! It's such challenging music to sing, and she does it so beautifully. I don't think I've ever heard anyone who's voice naturally sounds as much like Laura's as Christine's does (although it is certainly distinguished in it's own way). I also thoroughly enjoyed Christine's original song, "Laura and John". The arrangements are true to Laura’s originals but with some sweet creative touches as well. The band members are all pros and Christine can really play that piano! Laura’s fans should really enjoy this recording. Christine is a very talented woman, and I'm so glad she did such a beautiful job with my sister's music." Jan Nigro - Brother of Laura Nyro
Edward Blanco - All About Jazz The Christine Spero Group: Spero Plays Nyro (2015) By EDWARD BLANCO, Published: May 8, 2015
The Christine Spero Group: Spero Plays Nyro Pianist and singer Christine Spero and her group perform the music of singer and songwriter Laura Nyro on Spero Plays Nyro, a stellar tribute to one of the most iconic composers of the 20th century best known for the way she cross-bred the jazz, R&B, Pop and blues genres. Spero and band reprise some of Nyro's most familiar compositions recorded by such groups as Blood, Sweat & Tears, The Fifth Dimension, Three Dog Night and even, Maynard Ferguson. Perhaps a project long in the making as Nyro's music, particularly Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (Sony Music, 1968), served as an inspiration which left a lasting impression on the young Spero.
That definitive Nyro album was so influential that Spero chose to include the soft balladic "Emmie" and the pop-styled "Sweet Blindness"—two Nyro originals from that recording—provided here with modern arrangements that feature brother Elliot on a splendid tenor saxophone moment. First recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary and made popular by the Rock/fusion band Blood, Sweat & Tears, Spero voices a fusion-like rendition of the classic "And When I Die," showcasing the electric guitar of Scott Petito, a little percussion from Elliot and strong steady beats from drummer Peter O' Brien. One of Nyro's most important social songs of her era was "Broken Rainbow," penned for the unjust relocation of the Navajo Indians and beautifully delivered here by the singer.
The songstress and band are at their best on the lively upbeat and hard-driving "Money," where Spero reaches, the saxophone howls and supporting cast makes this one a highlight of the disc. Recorded by Three Dog Night and jazz icon Maynard Ferguson, the classic "Eli's Comin'" takes a new twist here as the arrangement drives the melody in a slightly new direction that works well here taking nothing away from its original texture. The Saxophonist has some of his best solo moments on the warm and delicate "Billy's Blues" as sister Christine delivers the lyrics as humbly as Nyro must have.
The harmonious and powerful "Laura and John," is actually a Spero original penned in homage to both Nyro and John Coltrane, lays down an emotional musical message. "Upstairs by a Chinese Lamp" is the albums most ambitious track at over seven-minutes long, reveals a light almost down-tempo structure featuring the high-pitched vocals of the singer with Elliot featured on both the soprano saxophone and flute.
The Fifth Dimension Pop group recorded several of Nyro's tunes including the 1969 "Wedding Bell Blues" and the 1968 hit "Stone Soul Picnic," provided here in stylish fashion on clearly, one of the best renditions of the song ever made. When one thinks the song is over, it seems to continue (as a separate track) but this time, closing on a furious Latin-styled romp. Armed with loads of talent, Christine Spero and her group do more than justice to Laura Nyro's music, on Spero Plays Nyro, each song is reimagined with creative arrangements making this album an enchanting musical tribute.
April 30, 2015
SOUND ADVICE: The Christine Spero Group pays homage to Laura Nyro in new album By David Malachowski, Daily Freeman Posted: 04/30/15, 2:42 PM EDT ARTIST: The Christine Spero Group ALBUM: “Spero Plays Nyro”
Local light Christine Spero is a spectacular singer and pianist who lives in Hunter, and in this collection, “Spero Plays Nyro,” tackles a difficult subject — retelling the timeless songs of Laura Nyro — and she does it in an extraordinary way, and with verve.
They say don’t do a cover unless you can do it better, and in this case, she comes close, and often equals the original. The iconic cuts are done with respect and grace, and classics like “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “And When I Die” are given powerful readings. And revisiting Nyro’s riveting “Eli’s Coming” will make you rethink the much more emotionally tamer “Three Dog Night” take from 1969.
But it’s the deeper tracks, like the sultry “Billy’s Blues,” the haunting “You Don’t Love Me When I Cry” and “Emmie,” that really showcase Spero’s soaring voice, and way with a song.
The secret weapon here is saxophonist Elliot Spero, who also co-produced with brilliant bassist Scott Petito, aided an abetted by ace drummer Peter O’Brien.
Though the mission was daunting, Spero succeeds with her gorgeous, expressive voice, and the smarts to keep world-class musicians nearby. Fans of both Nyro and Spero will adore this record, a reminder of how well written songs used to be.
David Malachowski is a guitarist, producer and freelance journalist.
Performance Reviews: "Christine Spero and I shared a bill at the new Towne Crier in Beacon NY. I knew that Christine was doing a tribute to my old friend Laura Nyro, but I wasn’t prepared for just how amazing Christine’s performance turned out to be. She was able to channel Laura with all the feeling and intelligence that the music warranted, but, at the same time, made Laura’s music her own. A delightful evening all around - one that I hope will be repeated often." - Steve Katz (Blood, Sweat and Tears and the Blues Project)
"Christine Spero blew away any elitest music critic prejudices I may have had about a singer/songwriter devoting an entire evening's performance to covers of another artist. Christine Spero took the works of one of her early mentors, Laura Nyro, and recreated them in her own image. And what an image it was. This woman has a lover's touch on piano, a jazz master's vocabulary and a vocal splendor perfectly matched by a band that is nothing short of breathtaking." - Don Wilcock (The Saratogian, Troy Record, Nippertown)
LAURA AND JOHN Music and lyrics by Christine Spero copyright 2012
“Take it home, listen to it,” he said.
Melody, incense in my head, All alone, making this time by myself When I tapped into your spell. Time would help many to see that you were then out of the ordinary. Open up the treasure box, feast on new Where are you, you left the party too soon.
You talked to your mountain You saw beyond the wall You painted night and your words became light You taught us all.
Laura, you were the oyster’s pearl and John, you took me out of this world Steppin’ into places I’d never been with you to hold my hand. Back at home they were all trying in vain To find the sounds you were already playing Faces in the ashes looking back Rise through the smoke Where are you, you left the party too soon.
You talked to your mountain (wonderful, beautiful) You saw beyond the wall (wonderful, beautiful) You painted night and your words became light You taught us.
We all are part of that river that inhabits heart and mind. And now we can have you forever ‘cause a good friend is so hard to find.
You talked to your mountain (wonderful, beautiful) You saw beyond the wall (wonderful, beautiful) You painted night and your words became light You touched us, you touched us You touch us now.
The story behind "Laura and John"
Laura Nyro’s music came into my life in 1968 when a college radio DJ friend gave me a promotional copy of Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. I was a pianist/singer in the pop and classical world with my own harmony groups and only a teenager, but singing her music made me feel like a worldly, sexy, sad, joyful woman. I couldn’t wait to play that record every day after school. I wore it out!
The album had with it a scented lyric sheet which I, regrettably have since lost. I will always remember that perfumed ink as I was transported by her ethereal lyrics and celestial voice. I had never heard anyone or any music like hers before and truthfully, since. And oh, those harmonies....heavenly! She was one of a kind and sadly left us too soon. Shortly after, I was turned onto John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner and their music moved and inspired me. I later found out that they were also some of Laura's favorite and influential musicians. A few years ago I was inspired to write a song to thank both of them. “Laura and John” is an homage to her and John Coltrane, two of the greatest and most creative musicians of our time. No one ever wrote, sang, or performed like Laura Nyro and even though she is gone she still touches us now.
I found three wonderful musicians who shared my enthusiasm and commitment to Laura’s music. The requests of many of Laura’s fans at our live shows confirmed the making of this CD. Without losing the integrity of her songs we began a unique musical adventure. We hope you are as touched as we are by her music and enjoy our renditions.
And When I Die 3:490:00/3:49
Broken Rainbow 4:050:00/4:05
Eli's Comin' 5:200:00/5:20
Billy's Blues 4:170:00/4:17
Laura and John 5:230:00/5:23
Sweet Blindness 3:530:00/3:53
Black Swallow 0:430:00/0:43
Stoned Soul Picnic 3:370:00/3:37
The Picnic 2:260:00/2:26