Spencer Katzman is a composing and improvising guitarist and mandolinist based in Manhattan. Inspired at an early age by the wonders of early MTV and familiar sounds of classic rock, he later embraced influences from jazz, international, experimental, and other outside-the-mainstream music encountered through his tenure as a college radio DJ and multi-cultural surroundings in New York City.
In 2008, Spencer released his first album as a bandleader, 5 is the New 3, with the Spencer Katzman Threeo (featuring bassist Keith Witty and drummer Dave Sharma). The improvisational mash-up of jazz sensibilities, odd-timed grooves, Indian and Brazilian rhythms, and indie-rock energy includes re-imagined arrangements of indie "standards" alongside eight original tunes. The Threeo, originally a one-night trio engagement booked on Spencer's 30th birthday, has now expanded with a three-piece horn section and frequently invites guest vocalists to the stage with a repetoire that has grown to include music by Cannonball Adderly, Neutral Milk Hotel, Joe Henry, and Bill Frisell.
Beyond leading his own band, Spencer performs and records regularly with a diverse array of artists including his roles as concertmaster for the New York Mandolin Orchestra (now entering its 90th year), musical director for the venerable ska band Bigger Thomas, and guitarist for pop songwriter John Presnell, reggae group The Rudie Crew, jazz quartet David Aaron's Short Memory, and glam rock impresarios Michael T and Vanities (with occasional pinch-hitting on his first instrument - saxophone). Other notable collaborations have included:
- Musical theater with Peculiar Works Project, Nick Jones, and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts
- Contributions to three films for Over the GW Productions
- A guitar workshop hosted with Jim Campilongo
- Italian mandolin on the Rachel Ray Show and at the home of the Italian ambassador in New York
- Live band recreations of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Cabaret
- An appearance at the Bang On a Can Marathon with Tactus
- A studio/gig resume highlighted by work with the "psycho mambo" band Gato Loco, NYC's finest polka band - the Ja Ja Ja's, soul artist Dexter Myers, guitar/banjo/tuba bluegrassoriented Dopplegangers, punk/jazz outfit Alex Weiss' Fighter Planes, nerdcore rapper Dale Chase, jazz standard and Russian pop alchemists Kolom-Bour, Grammy-winning engineer Peter Wade, children's performer Patty Stirling, Americana storyteller Jud Conway, experimental rockers Backworldsmen, and many stars of the NYC theater and cabaret scene including Lady Rizo, Corn Mo, Kim Smith, the Bindlestiff Family Circus, Benjamin Ickies, and Judith Malina.
His association with Bigger Thomas, which started with an answer to a Craigslist ad looking for a substitute guitarist, has led to an especially vital series of collaborations in the ska community. In addition to contributing music and lyrics for Bigger Thomas' last two releases, he has appeared onstage or in the studio alongside members of the most significant ska bands of the last 40 years including the Specials, English Beat, Skatalites, Toasters, Skalars, Stubborn All-Stars, Rude Boy George, and Rudie Crew.
In 2014, Spencer intends to return to his rock and roll roots with a new album featuring his vocals and lyrics. His first public foray as a songwriter, after a 15 year focus on writing instrumental music, was a surprise Youtube success: "She's Lorimer, I'm Metropolitan", an ode to romance at the intersection of the G and L trains on NYC's subway map, went "mini viral" and recently surpassed 9,000 views.