Sprey produces incredible sounds now, crystal-clear, utterly transparent
jazz and blues recordings in which you can hear every rustle of
the drummer's brushes and every throaty vibration of a crooning
He engineers these breathtaking
CDs in an old mansion just outside Washington for jazz musicians
who want to sound their natural best-- no mixes, no overdubs,
no filtering, no compression, no equalization, no multitracks.
Sprey produces pure music.
Sprey is responsible for another
sound, too: the terrifying death roar of the A-10 Warthog warplane
as it races low over Kosovo, destroying Serb tanks and putting
a final, definitive punctuation point to the NATO war against
Sprey, now a peaceful musical
impresario, fought the Air Force bureaucracy a generation ago
as he helped to design the A-10 as a maneuverable, heavily armored,
relatively slow close-support weapon for ground troops. Most Air
Force officers wanted to fly high and fast, to do battle with
Soviet MiGs. They took the A-10 and its ground-hugging, down-in-the-mud
mission against their will. Then, in the 1991 Persian Gulf War,
A-10s knocked out 1,100 of the 1,500 Iraqi tanks destroyed from
"They could have left
all the other planes home," Sprey said yesterday.
And now the A-10 has been
vindicated again, over Kosovo. The Air Force's high-flying, high-tech
weapons spent 10 weeks pounding Serbia in a literally hit-or-miss
bombing campaign. Their high-altitude attacks hit military targets--but
also hospitals, a sanitarium, a jail, the Chinese Embassy and
a wrong country, Bulgaria.
Last week, the Kosovo Liberation
Army attacked Serb units and drew out Serb tank formations. The
A-10s went in low and demolished them. Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic sued for peace.
Even if the Air Force hierarchy
disdains the A-10, Sprey says, "The pilots love them. Any of our
jet fighters can be shot down by a .22-caliber rifle. But you
can punch an A-10 full of holes and it will come home with sky
showing through the wings."
Sprey and his colleagues spent
a year doing tradeoffs--speed for maneuverability, range for weight,
performance for survivability--until they got it right. They insisted
the fuel had to be separate from the engine, the hydraulic system
had to be backed up, the plane had to be able to fly even with
its control surfaces--ailerons and rudder--knocked out.
Though Sprey is proud of his
plane, he is not particularly proud of this war.
"We managed to put ourselves
on the side of the Croatians when we helped them ethnically cleanse
Serbs out of the Krajina," he said. "Now, when the Serbs want
to do the same thing, we bomb them, I take no sides with any of
So while his once-scorned
aircraft--a simple, straight-ahead warplane that works--helps
to win another war, Sprey puts musicians in front of the microphones
at his Mapleshade studio in Maryland and preserves their creativity
On Just for You, former
Duke Ellington saxophonist Harold Ashby and his sidemen--John
Hicks, Keter Betts and Jimmy Cobb--are vividly
present, utterly lifelike, Half a world away, Serb soldiers are
dead in their tanks.
"They shall beat their
swords into plowshares," said the prophet Isaiah. Sprey has beaten
his sword into work of great beauty. You can get a Mapleshade
catalogue from (888) CDMAPLE.