First outing on ECM for British saxophonist Speake, leading a quartet featuring Bobo...
Peter Marsh 2006
Speake (for those who don't know him) is an eclectic alto saxophonist, equally at home with cross-cultural projects with classical Indian musicians, reinterpreting the music of Charlie Parker or sessioneering with the Style Council.
This band features pianist Bobo Stenson, bassist Mick Hutton and drummer Paul Motian and had its genesis in a Cheltenham festival commission and tour back in 2000. ECM finally put them in the studio in 2002 but it's taken another four years to get this album out, during which time Motian has ceased to tour outside the US and Hutton is sadly no longer able to play due to injury.
So while a reunion looks unlikely, this is a rewarding, if muted souvenir of the band's existence. Only one piece is taken at speed; the rest is typically sepulchral ECM fare, injected with various degrees of freedom and powered (if that's the word) by Motian's trademark patterings. Speake has a clear, luminous tone and a penchant for meandering, aching melodies; his pairing with Stenson works effortlessly.Hutton is assured, warm and inventive; this set is a reminder of what a great player we've lost. One for the ECM devotees, perhaps, but lasting pleasures are to be had within.