Label/Year: Intakt Records, 2017
Lineup - Chris Speed: tenor saxophone; Chris Tordini: bass; Dave King: drums.
As a result of the sparkling combination of emotional playing and brilliant technique, the saxophonist/composer Chris Speed has been widely solicited by multiple renowned artists who have no doubts when it comes to incorporate his talents in their personal works.
Speed has built his reputation not only with exciting projects from others - John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet, Jim Black’s Alas No Axis, Tim Berne’s Bloodcount, Dave Douglas group, but also with the robust bands he co-leads, Endangered Blood and Human Feel. Recently, his prominent voice also served to boost Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus, Craig Taborn Quartet, and Dave King’s Trucking Co.
On his newest release, Platinum on Tap, the charming, wispy tone of his saxophone spearheads an enthusiastic trio that includes bassist Chris Tordini, and drummer Dave King. Offering up eight originals and two covers, this impressive work clearly surpasses the trio’s previous release, Really OK (Skirl Records, 2014).
“Red Hook Nights” revolves around a catchy melody that rubs over a soft surface created by relaxed bass plucks and rhythmic brushing suppleness. The mixture ensues a melodious universe where both jazz standards and Americana are well accepted.
A symbol of superior triangular articulation is certainly “Arrival High”, a tune where Tordini’s bass groove is impeccably in tune with King’s intricate Afro churn filled with talkative and tremendously coordinated agglomerations of snare, tom-tom, and cymbal diffusions. Initially operating undercurrent, Speed changes posture after bringing the theme’s melody to surface. While improvising, he dispatches vehement, hasty phrases but maintains lucid and coherent chains of thought.
The saxophonist’s timbral explorations are patented on “Buffalo 15”, a light-hearted marriage between folk melody and rock pulse, “Crossface Cradle”, a highly motivic, blues-based post-bop tune that takes us to Coltrane ground and throws a few hooks à-la Sonny Rollins, and “Torking”, whose inquisitive melodic statement is turned into long multiphonic blows during the improvisation. Also, the frenzied “Crooked Teeth”, extremely playful in its carefree posture, encompasses high-pitched intonations and flutter-tonguing technique as part of its rebellious manners. This deflection into avant-garde territory finds a sequence with the closing tune, “Spirits”, a strenuous classic authored by the iconic saxophonist Albert Ayler.
A much more affectionate conduct is adopted in order to handle Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust”, as well as the title track, a relentlessly static dance that ruled by an odd meter and obeying to a formal AABA structure.
Three different individualities united by a strong chemistry find a magnetic way to communicate, creating dynamics that sound as natural as their own existences. Containing exceedingly well-crafted compositions connected to the jazz tradition but shaped with a unique modern touch, Platinum on Tap brings an irrefutable breath of fresh air to the chord-less trio formats.
01 - Red Hook Nights ► 02 - Arrival High ► 06 - Crooked Teeth