Local jazz guitarist Peter Sprague is putting the finishing touches on two recordings set for summer release on his SBE Records label.
“SBE stands for striving-to-break even,” Sprague informs me during a tour of his Encinitas recording studio. “We’re not trying to achieve ‘hit-record’ status. My objective is to keep the costs low, release a product I’m happy with, and make just enough bread to break even, so I can do it again.”
Sprague had the studio custom-built — there are no parallel walls anywhere; there’s a large group-recording main room, a piano room, and several smaller booths. You can see the Pacific Ocean from his second-story window, which is important to Sprague, a devoted surfer who is always game to adjust his schedule should the waves look inviting.
Spragueland studios has recorded many local musicians — there are hundreds of releases on the label’s imprint. “I record my own music but also a lot of other people’s music. They will hire me to help produce, play, and record them,” says Sprague, sitting at the mixing console stroking a ten-year-old Chihuahua. “But, since the economy turned, I have more free time, which I kind of like. It allows me to tour and work on my own projects.”
These latest projects include a reunion album with the collective ensemble he began in the ’80s, Road Work Ahead, and his Chamber Music America–sponsored composition, Dr. Einstein’s Spin, featuring Sprague’s String Consort.
The Road Work Ahead disc is their first in five years and includes compositions by all four members — pianist Bill Mays, bassist Bob Magnusson, and drummer Jim Plank.
“We got together again, and we did this tour — we traveled in a van to San Francisco — and we mostly pulled new music for the tour. So, at the end, we marked off a couple of days and decided to record it. It’s all mixed now and we’re just working on the cover. It’s probably going to be out in a few months.
“The other project, the String Consort, we have one more day for the strings to come in and record some fixes, mostly pitch issues.”
Sprague began his recording career in the late ’70s, with several releases on the Xanadu label (The Path, Message Sent On the Wind, Bird Raga), before moving to the larger Concord Jazz Records, for which he released Musica Del Mar and Na Pali Coast. He has since acquired the rights to all of his albums and made them available via SBE.
In addition to jazz, Spragueland’s available to record everything from classical to punk.