Get ready for a fantastic new release from Phoenix-based jam quartet Spafford today. At 1PM EST, Spafford streamed for free their newest record, Abaculus: An Improvisational Experience, on their Facebook page.
Earlier this summer, after a well-accomplished, yet no doubt trying, season of traveling, performing, and rehearsing, Spafford members Brian Moss, Jordan Fairless, Red Johnson, and Cameron Laforest took sanctuary in their studio and decided to just have a jam session. The next hour of combined improvisation was recorded, and, upon listened to again, was decided as something really special. Dubbed with the title of abaculus, after the word that means little tiles that create large, beautiful pavement mosaics, the release is a momentous performance achievement for a band that is finding their stride more and more as one of today’s best rising jambands.
This is the kind of spontaneous musical offering that Spafford has gifted to its fans and the world before: back in December 2015, the band recorded a pair of spur-of-the-moment sessions in a remote Colorado cabin, that were dubbed Cabin Jams 1 and 2, and released for streaming on soundcloud. If you’re familiar with those epic creations, then be assured Abaculus is arguably an amazing step forward in this department. We really don’t want to give too much away as to what you’ll hear on this record, but we can hint at some of the musical gems to be found within:
- The session, though created on the spot, does seem to have movements, or defining sections. It absolutely speaks to Spafford’s ability to coalesce together upon a theme (and so quickly to!), and make the littlest of riffs the center or building block of a great, big groove.
- Like the best of Spafford’s live jams of the past, these movements transverse from the very highs of feel-good, and often relaxing, melodic work, to the intriguing low depths of dark improv, filled with lots of pedal fun and trance funk.
- That crunchy trance funk, among are driven by the tight feel between Fairless on bass and newest member Cameron Laforest, the latter of whom proves here that he belongs in Spafford (if he hadn’t already this past touring season).
- Right around the halfway mark (we won’t say the exact minute), keep your ears perked for one of the niftiest jam-switching segues ever (and Andrew highlights what comes after this with some choice organ work).
- Expect a lot of arm-hair-raising moments of passionate builds and punctuations upon crucial musical points, especially in the repeatedly inspirational guitar work from Moss.
Of course listeners and longtime fans of Spafford know already to expect things of this nature and caliber, but on Abaculus: An Improvisational Experience, the band hits the mark like never before. In true style, somewhere around the 50 minute mark Spafford begins to bring the session on home for a final, glorious push. Throughout the album, it definitely sounds like the four musicians may have started out on a whim, but are soon enough reaching for amazing places as they come across them–musical goals created and met in an instant. It’s spontaneous in the truest sense, and yet, with the recording being released to the world, we have something also completely opposite: a relic. An artistic creation made in the moment, but built to last.
It’s fair to say that Spafford is raising the bar in terms of improvisational possibility. Either that is the ultimate goal of a live touring band, or this is: to just make sure people have a good time, which they can probably check off too.
Written by Miles Hurley