A certain clarity of purpose has always run throughout the documentation of Martin Speake's music on record. In an aspect of his career that has taken in quartets, an alto sax/piano duo and a saxophone quartet, Speake has proven himself to be a musician and composer with the ability to pursue his own vision. This quartet disc is thus a whole lot more than the latest evidence on record of his musical development, it is also perhaps the best-realised documentation of his musical evolution.
Citing Lee Konitz as an influence on Speake's alto saxophone playing is something of a copout, despite the fact that the work of both musicians shares a certain ethereal quality for which Paul Motian is arguably the ideal drummer. Time and again here, as on the likes of "Buried Somewhere," Motian engages with the music in his customary fashion, and Speake's lines are melancholic in the most contrarily uplifting sense of that term.
An integral part of that sense of elevation stems from the fact that this is a remarkably empathetic group. Pianist Bobo Stenson has arguably never been better caught on record, and the fact that the likes of "The Healing Power Of Intimacy" and "Change Of Heart" abandon the theme-solos-theme routine allows him to introduce and develop ideas even before Speake makes his entry. Bassist Mick Hutton would appear to be an advocate of the noble and often overlooked notion that less equals more. His solo intro to "In Code," a model of economy, makes every note count.
There will perhaps inevitably be listeners for whom this music is just too cool, and it would not be wrong to say that it is far from being overtly emotional. That said, it does exhibit an intellectual restlessness akin to some of Jimmy Giuffre's work. There aren't too many people out there who occupy such a space, and Speake has more than enough individuality of his own, besides.
Personnel: Martin Speake: alto saxophone; Bobo Stenson: piano; Mick Hutton: bass; Paul Motian: drums.