Album Review of
Monsters' Impromptu

Written by Joe Ross
December 28, 2021 - 10:41am EST
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When guitarist Lee Heerspink’s debut album, Monsters’ impromptu, appeared on The Roots Music Report’s Weekly Top 50 Jazz Album Chart, I had to find out more about Lee.  Turns out he’s a hardworking Michigan-based jazz guitarist and composer who trained as a classical pianist and upright bass player before transitioning to the guitar in high school. From 2010-2014, Heerspink played guitar with the U.S. Air Force Band in Omaha, NE. From 2015-2020, he earned a DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) in Jazz Studies at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where he analyzed and transcribed the modern improvisatory styles of Pat Metheny and John Scofield.

Spanning 6-8 minutes each, the seven original compositions on Lee Heerspink’s debut album, Monsters’ Impromptu, are expressive material with funky energy and brash attitude. With titles like “Let it Simmer,” “Rinse Cycle,” and “Stumble Bumble,” we hear the guitarist playing with considerable technique, tone and taste. Heerspink has no doubt studied the stylings of pickers like Grant Green, Jim Hall, Joe Pass and George Benson. The title track was inspired by his playing “monster” with his two young sons. Each piece has its own unique personality, from the bluesy “What Happens in the Woods” to the closing melodic riffs of “Preach It Gary” that leave us wanting more. Each is arranged with tonal colorings and dynamics that give the rest of band plenty of room to strut their stuff.

To present his engaging funk/fusion offerings, Heerspink enlisted the support of some other very fine Michigan-based musicians, Jim Alfredson (organ), Randy Marsh (drums), Dutcher Snedeker (piano) and Caleb Elzinga (saxophone).  Alfredson and Marsh perform with the jazz-soul trio, Organissimo. Known for his multi-genre Hammond organ work, Alfredson has recorded several albums with his own bands. Also from a musical family, drummer Randy Marsh (aka “Marsh-Man”) brings four decades of experience, endless creativity, positive spirituality, and a trademark sense of humor to the mix. Also from Grand Rapids, pianist, podcaster, freelance writer Dutcher Snedeker studied and performed at   Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University. A good fit with Heerspink, Snedeker’s  current focus is on future soul, funk fusion, and New Music. Saxophonist Caleb Elzinga has an advanced degree in jazz performance, and he’s been involved in many jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and reggae projects.

Together, all five bring considerable chemistry, character and cohesion to Lee Heerspink’s Monsters’ Impromptu. It’s a remarkably powerful album with an engaging, eclectic and solid groove. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)