When he plucked and bowed his bass here as a high-schooler at Jamesville-DeWitt, Spencer Murphy already demonstrated that he had the chops of a pro.
When he was in the ninth grade, Murphy formed a band called Mood Swings and became a regular at Central New York Jazz Arts Foundation jam sessions.
An extremely versatile musician, Murphy plays both acoustic and electric bass, so when he was here he performed with all sorts of combos from pop acts to rock acts, from be bop bands to jug bands. He studied with local musicians including jazz bass phenom Phil Flanigan and Los Blancos' electric bassist Steve Winston.
Class-work and concerts
For the past two years the 19-year-old has been attending SUNY Purchase, but he's complementing his class-work by touring with a thoroughly funked-up Manhattan-based group called The Element
Led by Gotham session ace Charlie Lagond on tenor saxophone, The Element brings its hip-hop, jazz and Latin dance grooves to Syracuse this weekend for a two-nighter, Saturday and Sunday April 26-27, at Funk 'n Waffles, downstairs at 727 S. Crouse Ave., on the Syracuse University Hill. Showtimes are 9 p.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday. Admission costs $10; 477-9700.
The Element is something of a super-group.
The nine-piece band features musicians who have honed their chops with everyone from big band pioneers Buddy Rich and Woody Herman, to alternative jazz legends Chuck Mangione and Sam Rivers; from Latin superstars Tito Puente Jr. and Frankie Negron, to a list of Top 40 artists that includes The Temptations, The Coasters, Q-Tip and Snoop Dogg.
'Hot and raucous'
Besides Lagond and Murphy, The Element includes drummer Andrew Abramowitz, percussionists Frank and Anthony Almonte, alto saxophonist Joshua Bolduc, trumpeter Shareef Clayton, trombonist Ron Prokopez and keyboardist Jon Swift.
"The Element exists for its live concerts and pulls out all the stops on stage," said the band's booking manager, Rosanne Lana. "No one in the band sits still for a moment. Their show features hot vocals, tight horn arrangements, raucous percussion, slick instrumental solos and breezy dance movements. "
They're also impressive on record.
"Future Proof," the band's CD, is an irresistible mix of funky jams, scintillating syncopation and soaring vocals. Tracks run the gamut from the crisp horn work, stinging guitar and snappy snare of "Drop It (In the Pocket)" to the psychedelic overtones of an organ-driven "Chromazone."
The disc will be available for sale at Funk 'n Waffles this weekend.
For band info, visit theelementband.org.