Gil Spitzer defies stereotypes and makes great jazz

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Saxophonist Gil Spitzer embodies a number of age-defying witticisms. His debut album, “Falando Docemente” was recorded when the musician was 75 years old. The music on “Falando Docemente” has a classic feel–rumbling, rhythmic bass, smooth saxophone lines and clattering drums make the album sound as if it were recorded at least 50 years ago, and that is a compliment.

Introducing Gil Spitzer

Spitzer is an East Bronx native. He grew up playing alto saxophone and was inspired by the music of Stan Getz, Paul Desmond and Johnny Hodges.

Spitzer met bassist Nilson Matta at Matta’s Samba Meets Jazz Summer Music Camp in Ben Harbor, Maine. Inspired by the first meeting and Spitzer’s playing, Matta invited the saxophonist to an international Samba Meets Jazz Camp in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The rest was jazz history. Matta later invited Spitzer to sit in with his ensemble on gigs at Birdland in New York City. Matta has said of Spitzer, “He’s got that lyrical thing, which is very charming. And also nice tone, great taste. He embraces all of those things and he plays with a lot of spirit.”

Listeners can hear this spirit throughout Spitzer’s debut album. Matta put together an ensemble of like-minded Brazilian compatriots. Together, they help to give Spitzer’s album an authentic bossa nova feel.

Spitzer pays tribute to a few of his musical heroes on “Falando Docemente.” One of them is Stan Getz. The saxophonist is probably best-known for the classic tune, “The Girl From Ipanema.” Spitzer relates how he and his hero share a connection.

“Interestingly, my first lessons were at a studio in the East Bronx where Stan Getz took music lessons,” he stated. “I never met him there, he was already gone, but his photograph was on the wall with some other star pupils there who had achieved success. And I did take lessons with the same teacher that he had for a time.”

The sound of “Falando Docemente”

“Falando Docemente” is Portuguese for “sweet talking.” Certainly, the songs on the album evoke a romantic age. Other heroes whose styles Spitzer recalls for the recording are Ira Gershwin and Nat “King” Cole.

Songs that Gershwin and Cole made popular, “Embraceable You,” and “Nature Boy” are covered here.

At the outset, it is clear that the accolades about Spitzer’s playing are correct. He does have a smooth, warm, lyrical way of phrasing with his saxophone. The album’s classic feel is one of its main selling points. However, this isn’t just jazz for background noise–it is music to be appreciated like any other art.

“Falando Docemente” is a 12-song treasure of classic-sounding jazz. Most are covers, but there is one original. While it is has not been made clear why Spitzer took so long to start his jazz career, listeners will simply be glad that he has.

“Falando Docemente” will be available Nov. 3, 2017.

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