Album art courtesy of the artist.
Brooklyn-based drummer, composer, and educator Vinnie Sperrazza is engaged in a wide range of projects. When we spoke last week, Sperrazza was at the Avaloch Music Institute for rehearsals with pianist/vocalist Yoon Sun Choi. Sperrazza’s previous albums have included Apocryphal (Loyal Label, 2014) and Juxtaposition (Posi-Tone, 2017), both of which were met with critical acclaim.
Sperrazza’s new album, “Hide Ye Idols,” features the same band from his previous Apocryphal record: Sperrazza on drums, plus Loren Stillman on alto saxophone, Brandon Seabrook on guitar, and Eivind Opsvik on bass. The album is infused with personal narrative, as well as both literary and cultural references. Produced by Paris Monster’s Geoff Kraly and mastered by Nate Wood, Hide Ye Idols has a thought-out and refined sound. The band will play The Jazz Gallery this Halloween at 9:30 P.M., sharing the bill with Chris Morrissey’s Standard Candle, who will play at 7:30 P.M. We spoke with Sperrazza about the album, literature, and his fledgling practice as a fiction writer.
The Jazz Gallery: How’s Avaloch Farm Music Institute, and what have you been rehearsing with Yoon Sun Choi?
Vinnie Sperrazza: It’s beautiful up here, and it’s nice to be out of the city. Here at Avaloch you get a room, a studio, food, and you just hang out. It’s hard to imagine anything better than this. There’s a lot of individual time too, so I’ve been practicing, writing, listening to music, resting. Yoon has this idea for a trio with me, her, and Dana Lyn. We’re looking at her music, rehearsing, improvising, doing everything we can think of, playing jazz tunes, pop songs, covers. It’s going well, and I definitely think the project will move forward.
TJG: Are you excited about your Halloween double-bill with Standard Candle? Last time I was at The Jazz Gallery on Halloween, I saw Jason Lindner wearing a wizard hat while playing with Justin Brown.
VS: Hell yeah. I’m not too costume-oriented myself, but I’m sure there’ll be some energy on stage. We can’t wait to play. This album definitely is the direction we’ve been heading in.
TJG: You’ve released one track as a preview, “Bulwer Lytton.” I love the pace, your connection with Brandon Seabrook’s guitar playing, the arrangement with the bass solo at the end. Who’s Bulwer Lytton?
VS: Bulwer Lytton was a Victorian-era writer, credited with the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night.” It’s also thought that he came up with the phrase “The pursuit of the almighty dollar,” and maybe “Far from the madding crowd,” these cliché phrases that we use. He was an editor of Dickens. You know how Great Expectations has a happy-ish ending, where Pip meets Estella again and they get together? It’s thought that that was Lytton’s ending, that he pushed Dickens in that direction. Made it a little cheesier. Anyway. The reason the track is named after him is due to a complicated nexus of thoughts around how Victorians represented childhood, as well as an instrumental theme from my own childhood. I don’t know if you want to hear all of it.
TJG: I want to hear all of it.
VS: So, everything in the song was through-composed. Bassline, drum part, guitar, melody. But, if you listen to the track, specifically the guitar, there’s a hidden clue about the song’s meaning, an inside glimpse at what the song is about. It wasn’t an intentional aspect of the composition, but the guitar part is close to some Pete Townshend stuff. It’s really close. Brandon and I are massive Who fans, and even though “Bulwer Lytton” was written on piano, there are some chords there from The Who’s “Tommy.” Tommy, of course, is a young boy’s story. It’s deeply associated with all the feelings of a pre-adolescent child. It’s a beat-to-death classic rock warhorse that you don’t want to go near, but of course, when I was a child, I didn’t know it was a beat-to-death classic rock warhorse. Discovering Tommy was a beautiful moment for me. So without knowing it, while composing and demoing it at my house, “Bulwer Lytton” became a sort of portrait of the aesthetic experience of childhood. It’s a real scene from my childhood, that moment when a pre-pubescent adolescent discovers a film, song, person that makes them realize the world is ten times bigger than they ever imagined.