I can precisely document the time and place my admiration for Sarah Spencer began. The site was the second floor of Casa Mezcal (86 Orchard Street, on the Lower East Side of New York City) around 3 PM on Sunday, June 5 — an event I’ve documented here. Witnessing this was Tamar Korn (it was her gig), violinist / baritone saxophonist Andy Stein and pianist Ehud Asherie. Then, happily, Sarah brought her tenor saxophone to the Wednesday, June 10 gig of the Hot Jazz Rabble at the Tryon Public House (4740 Broadway).
Her friends in the Rabble were Jim Fryer, trombone; Mike Davis, trumpet; Glenn Crytzer, banjo; Jennifer Vincent, string bass.
A word before readers jump into the videos. To tenor saxophone aficionados who have grown up on Hawk, Ben, Lester, and their modern descendants, Sarah’s playing may take sixteen bars to get used to. If, however, you know the New Orleans tradition of Cap’n John Handy and Emmanuel Paul, Sarah’s bubbling, exuberant work will make you feel at home immediately.
She told me that she doesn’t see herself as a member of the front line, alongside trumpet and trombone, but rather as part of the rhythm section, energizing it in naturally. What you’ll hear in her joyous ensemble playing sounds like a cross between water rushing over rocks and a very dark, ferocious Bud Freeman who’s been boling crawfish.
With that as preface, here she is on MARIE:
And here Sarah sings DOWN IN THE MOUF’ BLUES, which is a late Clara Smith performance. Please note that she does more than copy the recorded performance. Even better, she varies her phrasing from chorus to chorus with lovely shifts of emphasis and meter. There is the surface appearance of don’t-care roughness, but underneath there is many subtle variations on the simple theme:
Sarah’s authenticity and enthusiasm are very winning. Her personality doesn’t come through entirely in the videos, so you have to see and hear her for yourself. I think of her as a youthful Earth Mother of New Orleans stomp by way of the UK and Connecticut.
And she and her Transatlantic Band are playing a gig this June 20th: details here!
May your happiness increase!