The sax and guitar duo plays with a flawless sense of logic.
John Eyles 2012-04-04
Alto saxophonist Martin Speake releases such a diverse range of music (in recent years, including an Indo-jazz collaboration, a Charlie Parker tribute, and a free improvisation duo) that any new recording must be considered a new piece in the jigsaw that is his discography. Recorded in October 2010, Two Not One is a duo pairing Speake with guitarist Colin Oxley on a programme of 10 standards and three original compositions.
The duo format allows both players scope to display their skills without getting in each other’s way, but it also means each of them is constantly exposed to scrutiny – there is no hiding place in a duo. Speake makes full use of the space, smoothly moving from songs’ themes into free-flowing solos that forensically explore and expand upon those themes. Without a rhythm section, Oxley’s subtle guitar is just as vital to the duo’s success, keeping rhythm and acting as a harmony instrument as well as contributing the occasional solo break, notably on the intro to the original Happy.
Throughout, Speake’s tone is warm, pure and true, making it evident why he has attracted comparisons with Lee Konitz, the legendary alto saxophonist who himself straddles genres as Speake does. As if to acknowledge those comparisons, Two Not One opens and closes with compositions by Konitz’s mentor, pianist Lennie Tristano, each of which provides Speake with ample opportunities to showcase his abilities as a soloist.
On the other standards, the duo range across a variety of jazz styles, from the traditional favourite I Found a New Baby through the Latin-tinged Besame Mucho to Lester Young’s Lester’s Blues. Along the way, they clearly relish such classic melodies as Skylark, Our Love is Here to Stay and The Nearness of You.
Alongside such fine compositions, the duo’s three originals easily fit in. Their piece entitled Coleman Hawkins is particularly noteworthy, allowing Speake to summon up the spirit of the great saxophonist of its title. Whatever the music, Speake and Oxley play with a flawless sense of logic, constructing phrases that are easy on the ear, but they never once drift into easy listening or smooth jazz territories.