Reviews that mention Chris Speed

November 11, 2016

Claudia Quintet

Super Petite
Cuneiform Records Rune 427

By Ken Waxman

Acclaimed long before he joined the faculty of McGill’s Schulich School of Music last year, with Super Petite American composer-percussionist John Hollenbeck indicates one of many reasons why a Donald Trump-obsessed United States’ loss is our gain. Consisting of 10 tracks which are meticulously crafted as if shaped by a master diamond cutter, each manages to convey a flowing simplicity, but includes enough worldly sonic jolts to stave off placidity.

Tunes such as “JFK Beagle” and “Newark Beagle” for instance use accordionist Red Wierenga’s tremolo shimmers to replicate a canine’s exuberance, while their serious airport-sniffing work is characterized by a stringent tone conveyed by tenor saxophonist Chris Speed. Alternately if Drew Gress’s walking double bass grounds the movement of those on the A-List, then squeeze-box surges lustily underlie the swing in the step of the participants. Although the titles are evocative, tracks aren’t really programmatic but are there to balance the players’ interpretative skills. For instance Speed’s clarinet line that stretches outwards like a fire hose defines the near-static mood piece that is Mangold as effectively as melded vibes-accordion ripples atop percussion pops. MORE

June 6, 2016

Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus

The Distance
ECM 2484

The Who

Zoo

Auricle Aur 14+15

Carlberg/Morris/Niggenkemper/Gray

Cosmopolitan Greetings

Red Piano RPR 4699-4419-2

Eric Platz

Life After Life

Allos Documents 012

Florian Hoefner

Luminosity

Origin Records 82706

Something In The Air: Those Who Teach Can Also Play

By Ken Waxman

As shibboleths go, the hoary “those who can do, those who can’t teach,” must rank at the very top of the list. Besides libelling the majority of educators who devote themselves to the task of imparting knowledge to students, it negates the activities of those who teach and do. Here are some musicians who maintain a full-time teaching carer along with consistent gigging. MORE

February 16, 2016

Matt Mitchell

Vista Accumulation
Pi Recordings Pi 62

After establishing himself in the bands of Tim Berne and John Hollenbeck among others plus releasing a duo disc with percussionist Ches Smith, pianist Matt Mitchell bolsters the scope of his creativity with this two-CD set of eight interlocking compositions. Lengthy explorations, the Mitchell pieces give ample space to his piano playing the bass work of Chris Tordini plus expanded commentary from drummer Dan Weiss and tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed, all of whom he has worked extensively with in the past. MORE

May 14, 2014

Uri Caine Ensemble

Rhapsody in Blue
Winter & Winter 910.905-2

Théo Ceccaldi Trio +1
Can You Smile?

Ayler Records AYLCD 136

Samo Salamon & Slovene Philharmonic String Chamber Orchestra

Free Strings Orchestrology

KGOSF VD 013

Nils Wogram & Root 70 with strings

Riomar

Wog Records 007

Vijay Iyer

Mutations

ECM CD 2372

Something In The Air: Innovative Writing for Strings and Improvisers

By Ken Waxman

As genres draw closer to one another, the idea of a musician from one area playing and composing a work in another area doesn’t seem so far-fetched. More importantly the sophistication of many contemporary performers means that these inter-genre excursions are triumphant rather than merely passable. One form that is being explored by improvised musicians for instance is composing for the bedrock of the so-called classical music tradition: string groupings. MORE

December 10, 2012

Jacob Anderskov

Granular Alchemy
ILK 195 CD

Mark Solborg

Solborg 4+4+1

ILK 191 CD

By Ken Waxman

Recorded five days apart in Copenhagen in 2010, these CDs from two young veterans of the Danish improv scene, present differing versions of defining contemporary music. They also demonstrate the demand for the talents of tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Chris Speed, featured on both discs. If the Brooklyn-based Speed doesn’t have enough to do stateside, helping to run Skirl Records and playing with many so-called downtowners, he frequently gigs in Europe. Connections go deeper than that, of course. Guitarist Mark Solborg and pianist Jacob Anderskov, the CDs’ leaders, earlier forged connections with Speed while working and studying in New York. Anderskov’s Granular Alchemy and Solborg 4+4+1 are among the dozens of musical projects in which each is involved. MORE

December 10, 2012

Mark Solborg

Solborg 4+4+1
ILK 191 CD

Jacob Anderskov

Granular Alchemy

ILK 195 CD

By Ken Waxman

Recorded five days apart in Copenhagen in 2010, these CDs from two young veterans of the Danish improv scene, present differing versions of defining contemporary music. They also demonstrate the demand for the talents of tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Chris Speed, featured on both discs. If the Brooklyn-based Speed doesn’t have enough to do stateside, helping to run Skirl Records and playing with many so-called downtowners, he frequently gigs in Europe. Connections go deeper than that, of course. Guitarist Mark Solborg and pianist Jacob Anderskov, the CDs’ leaders, earlier forged connections with Speed while working and studying in New York. Anderskov’s Granular Alchemy and Solborg 4+4+1 are among the dozens of musical projects in which each is involved. MORE

March 11, 2012

Michael Bates

Acrobat: Music For, and By, Dmitri Shostakovich
Sunnyside SSC 1291

Fred Ho and the Green Monster Big Band

The Sweet Science Suite

Mutable/Big Red Media 003

Ariel Shibolet/Nori Jacoby

Scenes from an Ideal Marriage

Kadima Collective KCR 28

Adam Pierończyk

Komeda - The Innocent Sorcerer

JazzWerkstatt JW 104

Something In the Air: Improvisers’ Unexpected Inspirations

By Ken Waxman

Over the past few years as post-modernism has made anything fair game for musical interpretation, sophisticated improviser/composers have taken inspiration from the most unlikely sources, far beyond the motifs, historicism and pastels of earlier times. Canadian bassist in New York Michael Bates for instance, has organized a salute to Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), using his own music and variants on the modern Russian composer’s oeuvre. Iconoclastic American composer/saxophonist Fred Ho has produced a five-part suite honoring boxer Muhammad Ali (b. 1942) as a militant, outspoken fighter for social justice. The luminous canvases of American visual artist Cy Twombly (1928-2011) stimulate Israeli saxophonist Ariel Shibolet’s creativity, while Polish saxophonist Adam Pierończyk recasts in his own fashion the distinctive film scores of composer Krzysztof Komeda (1931-1969). MORE

December 3, 2008

Mike Westbrook

Westbrook-Rossini
hatOLOGY 661

Uri Caine

The Othello Syndrome

Winter & Winter W&W 910 135-2

Reinhold Friedl/Ensemble Zeitkratzer

Schönberg Pierrot Lunaire Cheap Imitation

Zeitkratzer Records ZKR 001

Speed/Cheek/Furic Leibovici

Jugendstil

ESP-Disk ESP 4048

Notated Music and Improvisation: Extended Play

So-called classic music and jazz have had an uneasy relationship since the beginning of the last century. Notated musicians yearned for jazz’s rhythmic and improvisational freedom, while jazzers coveted orchestral colors and financial support. MORE

December 3, 2008

Speed/Cheek/Furic Leibovici

Jugendstil
ESP-Disk ESP 4048

Mike Westbrook

Westbrook-Rossini

hatOLOGY 661

Uri Caine

The Othello Syndrome

Winter & Winter W&W 910 135-2

Reinhold Friedl/Ensemble Zeitkratzer

Schönberg Pierrot Lunaire Cheap Imitation

Zeitkratzer Records ZKR 001

Notated Music and Improvisation: Extended Play

So-called classic music and jazz have had an uneasy relationship since the beginning of the last century. Notated musicians yearned for jazz’s rhythmic and improvisational freedom, while jazzers coveted orchestral colors and financial support. MORE

December 3, 2008

Reinhold Friedl/Ensemble Zeitkratzer

Schönberg Pierrot Lunaire Cheap Imitation
Zeitkratzer Records ZKR 001

Mike Westbrook

Westbrook-Rossini

hatOLOGY 661

Uri Caine

The Othello Syndrome

Winter & Winter W&W 910 135-2

Speed/Cheek/Furic Leibovici

Jugendstil

ESP-Disk ESP 4048

Notated Music and Improvisation: Extended Play

So-called classic music and jazz have had an uneasy relationship since the beginning of the last century. Notated musicians yearned for jazz’s rhythmic and improvisational freedom, while jazzers coveted orchestral colors and financial support. MORE

December 3, 2008

Uri Caine

The Othello Syndrome
Winter & Winter W&W 910 135-2

Mike Westbrook

Westbrook-Rossini

hatOLOGY 661

Reinhold Friedl/Ensemble Zeitkratzer

Schönberg Pierrot Lunaire Cheap Imitation

Zeitkratzer Records ZKR 001

Speed/Cheek/Furic Leibovici

Jugendstil

ESP-Disk ESP 4048

Notated Music and Improvisation: Extended Play

So-called classic music and jazz have had an uneasy relationship since the beginning of the last century. Notated musicians yearned for jazz’s rhythmic and improvisational freedom, while jazzers coveted orchestral colors and financial support. MORE

March 20, 2006

ZENO DE ROSSI SULTRY

Plunge
El Gallo Rojo 314-6

Organizing a quintet of top-flight Italian and American improvisers, Verona-based drummer Zeno de Rossi’s Sultry has created an unpretentious, yet musically sophisticated session not unlike what labels like Blue Note and Riverside used to turn out with conspicuous regularity in the 1960s and 1970s.

Not that PLUNGE is in any way a throwback. But de Rossi, who composed half of the 10 tracks here, has played in so many groups from standard piano trios to Klezmer bands, that he has amassed a post-modern sensibility that can mix wit, rhythm and swing with spectacular soloing. A finger-snapper, this CD also exudes enough pure joy that you know the musicians had as good a time recording the tunes as the listeners will hearing them. MORE

February 20, 2006

Full Metal Klezmer

Shachor
El Gallo Rojo

Meshuge Klezmer Band
Treyf 1929
El Gallo Rojo

Switters
The Anabaptist Loop
Improvisatore Involontario

By Ken Waxman
February 20, 2006

Why do Italian improv-Klezmer bands exist, you may ask? Well – to answer a question with a question – why not? Musicians of Southern European heritage have been a mainstay of jazz since its beginning and been part of American popular music since its beginning, so why shouldn’t they get involved in the newest variant of Klezmer sounds? MORE

February 13, 2006

THE CLAUDIA QUINTET

Semi-Formal
Cuneiform Rune 217

Establishing himself as an in-demand percussionist and band leader, New York-based John Hollenbeck usually has several parallel projects on the go. While being on-call in both his roles for associates as different as Meredith Monk, pianist Fred Hersch, the Bang on a Can All-Stars and even Klezmer Madness proves his adaptability, it sometimes adds unforeseen pressures to his own bands.

Thus while The Claudia Quintet, which has been together since 1997, is a cohesive ensemble, you sometimes get the feeling that a few too many influences are on show. Subsequent tunes ping-pong from New music inflections to Middle Eastern slurs and from contrapuntal jazz time to floating Klangfarbenmelodie that abuts AMM-like minimalist territory. MORE

November 14, 2005

JOHN HOLLENBECK LARGE ENSEMBLE

A Blessing
OmniTone OTI 15209

Already praised as a first-class drummer, composer and combo leader, John Hollenbeck now shows that he can handle the writing, arranging and guiding of an 18-piece ensemble as fluently as his other talents.

Since for all reports his drumming is a clear-headed and multi-directional as it is on A BLESSING, is it any wonder that his employers have ranged from mainstreamers Bob Brookmeyer and Lee Konitz, more advanced players like Brad Shepik and Jorrit Dijkstra plus New Music doyen Meredith Monk? MORE

May 30, 2005

CHRIS SPEED’S YEAH NO

Swell Henry
Squealer SQLR 040

Known for his incisive soloing with prototypical downtown groups lead by the likes of altoist Tim Berne’s and pianist Myra Melford, reedist Chris Speed, seems most concerned with lyricism, Balkan inflections and ambience here.

Not a smooth jazz record, the less than 39-minute session could easily be confused for a soft-rock outing by members of a metal band eager to display their chops in a quieter setting. Cumulatively the 10 tracks offer little more than music that could be played for dancing and background during a semi-hip wedding in Manhattan’s East Village or Brooklyn’s Park Slope. MORE

August 30, 2004

MYRA MELFORD’S THE TENT

Where the Two Worlds Touch
Arabesque AJ0159

THE FONDA/STEVENS GROUP
Twelve improvisations
Leo CD LR 394

Building on jazz’s standard two-horns-and-rhythm combo format, these CDs impress by showing how the players manage to make things new by tweaking sounds to match their own aspirations.

A team for over 20 years, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens and bassist Joe Fonda do this by not only insisting that all the sounds on their CD be completely improvised, but by adding another voice to the line-up. French alto and baritone saxophonist Daunik Lazro is one of that country’s foremost experimenters, working in contexts as varied as solo recitals and bands with saxophonist Michel Doneda and Joe McPhee. Here his unique articulation and sound sources add another dimension to that supplied by the pianist, bassist, long-time drummer Harvey Sorgen, and endlessly inventive trumpeter Herb Robertson, who has worked with Fonda and Stevens in various bands, on-and-off for more than a decade. MORE

May 10, 2004

POING

Giants of Jazz
The Legendary Royal Records RR 90 210

THE CLAUDIA QUINTET
I, Claudia
Cuneiform Rune 187

Hand another accolade to 30-something musicians -- they’ve finally liberated the accordion.

Once the preserve of polka bands -- or worse -- Lawrence Welk’s champagne music, the reedy sound of the bellows and keys has made distinct inroads into contemporary improv in the hands of stylists from both Europe and North America. Two of the most accomplished -- Oslo’s Frode Haltli and New York’s Ted Reichman -- help shape the sound of these two bands. MORE

July 28, 2003

PACHORA

Astereotypical
Winter & Winter W&W 910 082-2

BOBBY PREVITE & BUMP
Counterclockwise
Palmetto PM 2091

Fans who complain that improvised music is too cerebral and not concerned enough with rhythm should hear these sessions led by drummers usually confined to the avant-garde side of the spectrum.

Although both are literal dance parties -- in the 1950s definition of the term -- each is different as well. ASTEREOTYPICAL shows what happens when you give three American and one Icelandic musicians license to create a sound animated by the traditional music of Eastern Europe, especially the Balkans. Conversely, COUNTERCLOCKWISE, featuring five Americans of a slightly earlier vintage than the dewy-cheeked Pachora crew, plays improv informed by the sort of R&B licks leader Bobby Previte probably heard growing up in Niagara Falls, N.Y. in the 1960s. MORE

July 21, 2003

ANDREW DRURY

A Momentary Lapse
Innova 581

You may well ask, after hearing this excellent CD, who Andrew Drury is and why he isn’t better known?

Answering the first question is easier than dealing with the second. The New York-based drummer/composer has played with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and reedist Vinny Golia, among others, created and photographed site-specific drum solos in desert and mountain settings, led junk percussion workshops and recorded two earlier CDs. Yet not only are his percussion skills up to snuff, but on evidence of the tunes here, he’s a sophisticated modern composer as well. He mixes the sense of rhythm and sensitivity that characterizes drummer-composers like Max Roach and Gerry Hemingway with voicing and arrangements that connect sophisticated EuroImprov sensibility with New World swing. MORE

June 15, 2002

DE AMSTERDAM KLEZMER BAND

Limonchiki
Knitting Factory KFW-300

SLAVIC SOUL PARTY!
In Makedonija
Knitting Factory KFW-310

Paradoxically, as the twin vises of globalization and the commercial American entertainment industry tighten their grip on the world, traditional music has never been more popular. But examples of so-called World Music lose their validity if they’re merely held up as examples of what they were (conservative) and what they’re not (American) rather than evolving with time. Evolution doesn’t mean adding rock beats and sing-a-long choruses either. MORE

March 22, 2002

ZENO DE ROSSI

Sultry
Splasc(h) CDH 831.2

From his picture in the booklet, drummer Zeno de Rossi looks to be young enough to still be deciding exactly which personal vision of jazz he’s going to adopt. From the evidence of this CD he’s still trying many roles on for size.

Someone with varied experience, which encompasses membership in groups as seemingly irreconcilable as Bachelor’s Dream with a Hammond organist; the Meshuge Klezmer Band; and Django’s Jungle, with a violinist, accordionist and American Chris Speed on clarinet; his choice of musical costumes appears to be pretty broad. That’s probably why this session under his leadership is pleasing, but not momentous. It doesn’t seem to offer a clear diagram of who Zeno de Rossi jazzman, is. MORE

January 8, 2002

JOHN HOLLENBECK

No Images
CRI Blueshift 2002

JOHN HOLLENBECK
Quartet Lucy
CRI Blueshift 2003

JOHN HOLLENBECK
The Claudia Quartet
CRI Blueshift 2004

Moving among improv, big band jazz, New music and song-based material, percussionist/composer John Hollenbeck has made a name for himself in New York over the past half-decade. During that time, Hollenbeck, who also has a master’s degree from Rochester’s Eastman School of Music has worked with folks as varied as dancer/composer Meredith Monk, arranger Bob Brookmeyer, “downtown” trumpeter Cuong Vu and Klezmer brassman Frank London. MORE

January 5, 2000

SATOKO FUJII

JO
Buzz zz76008

Like many young pianists faced with the looming reflections of giants such as Evans, Tyner, Taylor, Bley and Jarett, Satoko Fujii must confront musical schizophrenia. Should she perform in a fragile, introspective style or let herself be completely free? Unfortunately, it would seem that small group and solo work brings out her quiet side, which isn't all that distinctive.

That's why this album plays to her strengths. Working as part of a 15-piece ensemble, the pianist, who divides her time between New York and Japan, is able to become just one part of the mix, leaving the stronger statements to more extroverted players. More tellingly, she wrote six of the eight compositions. And the pulsating big band writing, built on ascending motifs, belies the delicacy of some of her solo work.

MORE