Making The Strange and Fabulous Digestible One Song At A Time
(June 16, 2017)
Jack Spann has had an incredible couple of years. The Saint Louis native has lived in New York City for the last 16 years and established himself as one of the city’s in-demand keyboardists. His reputation led to an introduction to David Bowie’s producer, Tony Visconti who hired him to play on the demos for what would be Bowie’s final album, Blackstar.
As Spann told St. Louis Magazine, “It’s hard to describe how nice [Bowie] 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.” During the demo sessions, Bowie asked if Spann would be available to tour, but then his illness and untimely death precluded that.
Spann’s Visconti connection did not end there. It led to an introduction to Milwaukee-based producer, Gary Tanin, who worked with Spann on his 1st solo record, Time, Time, Time, Time, Time and again on his 2nd upcoming full band release, Beautiful Man From Mars.
Beautiful Man From Mars took a year to record and produce and is different from his last, a more straight up solo piano and vocal recording. Several guests appear for backing vocals while Spann provides lead vocals, piano, keyboards, guitar and bass. Rob Medcalf and Don Kelly play drums and percussion along with producer Gary Tanin adding additional keyboards.
The 13-song record kicks off with the title track, which Spann confesses he was inspired to write after working with David Bowie on the Blackstar demos. “It was just a simple little melody that came while I was driving from New York to Vermont to play a gig and the lyrics wrote themselves.” Spann played his acoustic guitar for the song, a handmade Bourgeois, which he considers himself “lucky to own.”
“Time” is Spann taking aim at unraveling the mystery. “The second hand went first, the minute though he’d try, pretty soon the hour hand had also gone by.” The song becomes distinct by adding a metronomic piano and unique chord structure to the mix.
Another song that focuses on piano with a rousing solo towards the end is “She Makes Pornography on the Weekend.” “I wrote this song for myself,” explains Spann, “and anyone who’s poor and striving to break out of the life they find themselves stuck in.”
“Songman” keeps the rhythm moving sans guitar. “It’s just piano, bass, drums and a little organ and violin in the background,” said Spann who tributes the song to fellow artists who have to play on the street, open mics or at songwriting circles.
“Mars in Twilight” is a pastiche of instrumental sounds described by Spann as “A free ride with no gravity, in the near space of the other side of Mars.” “Deep Inside” opens as a pulsing piano song of love, confusion, resignation and fleeting hope, while “Jack Around” is a little fun up-tempo instrumental ditty. The record ends with the fitting instrumental “Man From Mars Reprise.”
Spann’s music has covered considerable ground over the past two decades. He was a founding member of the St. Louis group, Vitamin A and then took the risk of moving to New York City for his art. “I got sidetracked for a while by the world of theater,” he said. He got an onstage gig acting and playing bass in the show “Lost Highway, The Hank Williams Story” and was then cast as ‘Songman’ in the Tony award-winning show “War Horse” at Lincoln Center for three years.
His piano skills have been characterized “Carnegie Hall-class chops” and while he can play ragtime, pop, jazz, blues, rock and in several other musical genres, Spann claims to look upon “honesty, emotion, and technique as a genre.” His work has been compared to Elton John, Billy Joel, Joe Jackson, Ben Folds and even “Tony Banks’ work with Genesis during their early 70’s peak with Peter Gabriel” (New York Music Daily).
Jack Spann is someone who’s impassioned and obsessed with expressing truth through music. He is someone who performs emotionally and with pure abandon. “I will spend hours and hours and hours writing the perfect line and I really want to make sure people ‘get it’— the idea with the original intent, when I deliver it,” he explains, “I care foremost about making them feel the same emotion that drove me to create it in the first place.”
Beautiful Man From Mars will release June 16th, 2017 in CD, Vinyl LP, and Digital formats through Big Boo Music / OARFIN / Alliance