Spirit Feel Plays Starship may be my deepest dive yet into obscure music. In the 1960s, Ron Feuer (keyboards), Paul “Rick” Davis (tenor sax), and Santo Savino (drums), later joined by Orlando “Pepito” Hernandez (bass), earned their daily bread as Las Vegas show musicians while playing more spiritual, cutting-edge jazz during their off hours and in a few receptive clubs. In May 1971, Spirit Free played at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Jazz Festival, where the live tracks on the album were recorded. Supplemented by additional music performed at the engineer’s home studio, Spirit Feel Plays Starship was put out on vinyl and distributed locally to friends and family. After a few more years and a bigger-band Spirit Free ensemble, the musicians scattered and that was it.
Enter The Numero Group, a reissuer of off-trail or no-trail audio artifacts (one of their series is called “Eccentric Soul”―enough said) that somehow found out about Spirit Free and put out this album on CD. I found out about it in the course of my habitual lurking on the Cranky Old Guys jazz bulletin board. Based on an enthusiastic recommendation there, I check the band out on YouTube and took a flyer on the whole thing. It’s great stuff. Davis is a hard-charging late Coltrane-inspired stylist, abetted by some fine, spacy Fender Rhodes keyboarding by Feuer and strong rhythmic support from Savino and Hernandez. Highlights include two versions of the title composition, Feuer’s Dear Latin Friend, and a wigged-out Starship, but the whole CD is strong, indeed. This recording is an object lesson in the vast amount of excellent music generated locally but, for a whole host of reasons, unable to break out to a wider audience. We owe thanks to the musicians, and to the Numero Group for putting this fine music out for a new audience to appreciate. It makes me want to explore the Numero catalog in more detail!
Here are Starship and Guardian Angel (only a few selections are available on YouTube).
Starship, short version: