Sam Spear’s recent micro album The New Groove takes a musical stand against the chaos of uncertainty during a global pandemic.

Composed, mixed, mastered and promoted in three weeks, Jazz saxophonist Sam Spear’s three song album serves as her way of finding routine in the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic. This one person album offers an intimate and bare-bones sound. The alto saxophone and clarinet playing is dextrous and intricate and reflects the album’s message of curiosity and searching.

Musicians understand how the global pandemic has taken away the most fun aspect of making music: the thrill of making it with others. Listening to this album, one reflects on the sorrows of not being able to be with friends while forced to reminisce, reconsider, and reevaluate in one’s bedroom⁠; the songs embody that bedroom-pop attitude. Spear’s mellow tone and understated melodies conjure images of late nights and solitude. These lines seem to know that they are not playing to a live audience or a stadium but to posters on the wall, bookshelves in the bedroom, or the void of the Internet stream. The resulting sound is one that is not concerned with filling up all the empty space but one that is patient and never showy. Spear’s alto playing is incredibly relaxed, melodies and improvised lines are delivered with poise and ease that makes them sound like overlapping conversation. The album leaves us with the feeling that we are glancing into someone’s bedroom while they are playing their instrument with their eyes closed.

Bookended by two upbeat tunes, “Every Day” takes a melancholic turn. The sentimental gossamer melody is complimented by Spear’s delicate handling of dynamics. The tune pushes and pulls from start to finish. Spear doubles on clarinet and alto saxophone, which fills out the orchestration and sounds like a pocket-sized Duke Ellington big band. Spear described Ellington as her hero in an earlier release, and “Every Day” is undoubtedly channeling his spirit. The title track throws a spotlight on Spear’s impressive alto playing which floats over the top of a high energy groove. The lines retain their breathy quality and simply glide unbothered over the underlying accompaniment. The final track, “Mama Goose Strut,” shares a similar quality. This track is loaded with blues articulations but Spear never over-blows, and each line is sparkling, clear, virtuosic but also singable.

The New Groove is a blend of high energy jazz rock and a traditional sounding ballad. Yet all the tracks share a warm and mellow quality due to Spear’s unhurried alto playing and the album’s exploratory message.

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