This biographical article is written like a résumé. (May 2015)
Greg Spero (born February 22, 1985) is a pianist/composer from Highland Park, IL. He has performed with acclaimed musicians such as Arturo Sandoval, Corey Wilkes and Robert Irving III, co-produced tracks with Ski Beatz (of Jay Z) and Shock G, (Digital Underground founder) for hip-hop artists such as Murs and Mos Def, as well as written music scores for movie and theater productions.
In 2006 Spero met nine-year Miles Davis collaborator and Music Director Robert Irving III. This chance meeting helped shape Spero's early career, as Irving soon after adapted Spero as an endeared musical disciple and first-call referral. Irving composed the liner notes for Spero's most recent album, claiming that the "evolutionary arc [of the project] sets exceptionally high standards."
In early 2012, Spero was asked to join the Buddy Rich Big Band where each evening on tour, he is showcased in a solo piano performance, recently appearing in London and New York where the band headlined the "Buddy Rich 25th Memorial Concert".
In January 2013, Spero received the Best Jazz Entertainer award at the Chicago Music Awards.
In early 2015, Spero was recruited as the keyboard player and sound designer for pop sensation Halsey. They have completed 3 tours, including opening for Imagine Dragons and two headlining tours. Spero is currently on tour with Halsey opening for the Weeknd in arenas across Canada and the West Coast of the USA.
Early life and career
Gregory Newman Spero was born in Highland Park, IL on February 22, 1985. He is the first child of Peter and Sally Spero and brother to younger siblings, Joey and Katie Spero. Born into a family of artists, Greg started playing piano and composing at age three. Both his father and grandfather, Gus, are musicians who taught Greg to practice and appreciate music as a child. Greg started playing professionally at age fourteen with Chicago-based blues group, "The Slack Daddies." After high school, Spero studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and graduated with a bachelor's degree in Music Composition and Jazz Performance. Since then, he has continued his studies with world-renowned musicians such as Chip Stephens, Jim Trompeter, and Chip McNeal.
Spero is a devotee of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism which is present both in his day-to-day life and thematically in his music. He came to the practice through an encounter with one of his musical influences, Herbie Hancock, whom he met at the Ravinia Festival. Hancock revealed that he adopted the practice from jazz bassist Buster Williams and that it has since played a large part in his musical inspiration and creativity. Illuminated by Herbie’s experiences, Spero embraced the practice which would eventually provide the backdrop for his album, Acoustic. Spero continues to receive spiritual guidance from Herbie in his Buddhist practice.
As a young musician, Spero has accumulated a lengthy recording and performance resume, already having shared the stage with a plethora of musicians to include Harrison Bankhead and Leon Joyce of the Ramsey Lewis Trio, Frank Russell, Dede Sampio, and Robert Lee Irving III.
In 2006, Spero recorded on Frank Catalano's album Mighty Burner, which debuted at number eleven on the Jazz Billboard Charts and after twenty weeks on the charts, became a best-selling jazz album that same year. Additionally, Spero has released four of his own albums and has been featured on several others. As a leader, Spero has released four albums including the Greg Spero Trio’s Live in 25 (2005), Radio Over Miles (2010), which features his personal interpretation of a union between alternative music a la Radiohead and the music of jazz icon, Miles Davis which was nominated for the "Best Jazz Album" at the Chicago Music Awards. Live in Toronto, Spero’s third album, was recorded at Trane Studio in Toronto. This album is "sold" at a karmic price; the download is available for free in exchange for karma. "Purchasers" have to check a box agreeing to complete four karmic transactions to include giving "five random smiles to people on the street, regardless of age, sex, or looks." with the most recent release - Acoustic (2011) featuring all-original compositions in an acoustic piano trio setting, along with a unique interpretation of the Miles Davis composition "Blue in Green". The album incorporates mixed meter and the dark, Bill Evans-like tone of Spero's playing, assisted by a Grammy-award-winning production team (engineered by Craig Bauer and mastered by Danny Leake.)
Although he has historically composed and performed music of the jazz idiom, his interest in a variety of stylings has afforded him opportunities to record with prominent hip-hop artists, including Ski Beatz, Shock G, and American rapper Murs. Contrastingly, Spero has also co-composed songs with Darryl Jones of the Rolling Stones and recorded with other icons such as Richard Patterson and Robert Irving III.
In recent years, Spero has composed music for the stage and screen, writing for several theater productions including Feltre Theater's performances of Eugène Ionesco's Exit the King, two Tennessee Williams one-acts and for films such as Joe Burgess' The Perfect Breakup. In addition to wearing the hats of performing and recording artist and composer, Spero produces music for Guia Rivera, an R&B/Hip-Hop singer based out of New York.
Those hip to the music happenings in Chicago flock to Spero's performances at the House of Blues, The Green Mill, Andy's Jazz Club, Martyrs and Fitzgerald's among many other venues. While Spero’s influences range from Bach to Keith Jarrett to Herbie Hancock to Schoenberg, he draws his primary influence from American-born jazz and finds great inspiration in western electric dance music as well as the synthesized timbres of modern electronic music and contemporary hip-hop rhythms.
- Electric (Greg Spero, 2014)
- Acoustic (Greg Spero, 2011)
- Frank Russell (Frank Russell, 2011)
- Radio Over Miles (Greg Spero, 2010)
- GMG (GMG, 2008)
- The Mighty Burner (Frank Catalano, 2006)
- Live in 25 (Greg Spero Trio, 2005)
- Fossil Fuels in the House that Mouse Built (Bucket Shop, 2002)