Multi-reedman Chris Speed is a busy man these days. Speed’s involvement with cutting edge bands or artists such as “Orange Then Blue”, “Pachora”, James Emery, Jerry Granelli and Tim Berne’s “Bloodcount” put him in the heart or forefront of 90’s style modern jazz. Deviantics is Speed’s 2nd solo release, both of which are on the Songlines label.
Chris Speed has graduated from the so-called “young lion” status and is without a doubt a star who has most certainly, risen! A gifted technician and composer, Speed is a young stylist with a clear vision. Here, Speed utilizes the wondrous talents of bassist Skulli Sverrisson, trumpeter Cuong Vu and drummer-percussionist, Jim Black. What have here is ¾ of the wonderful Balkan influenced jazz group, “Pachora” (See AAJ May 99 review).
Speed’s composition, “Pitch Remix” gets the ball rolling so to speak as Speed’s richly textured and fluent clarinet work leads the band into free-jazz motifs supplemented with brief yet enticing choruses by Speed and trumpet virtuoso Cuong Vu. Skuli Sverrisson’s electric bass work is enormous in scope. Throughout, Sverrisson displays technical gifts that in most instances would stop onlookers or other musicians in their tracks. Sverrisson is the perfect foil for Speed’s charging yet often-complex charts. Jim Black and Sverrisson are enigmatic and indeed one of the dynamic duo rhythm sections on the planet. Speed’s composition, “Reconnoiter” features a beautiful melody line as Speed on tenor and Vu exchange vibrant choruses and segue into generous doses of improvisation and dialogue. Throughout, Speed and Vu square off yet are also inclined to alter their respective courses, often in climactic fashion while eventually reconvening at some point within a particular composition. On "Reconnoiter", Black and Sverrisson fill in the gaps with gobs of power and shifting tempos while seldom if ever, losing the pulse. Jim Black is also liable to provide tonal color through his effective utilization of cymbals and percussion as in Sverrisson’s sublime composition titled,“Tulip” although at times, this piece meanders a bit. Speed’s “Wheatstone” is a highlight, which contains some Balkan influenced overtones as Speed’s commanding and lyrically gorgeous tenor work leads the charge. Again, we find Speed and Vu reciting bright choruses, which are at times, streamlined or briefly stated. Speed’s “East Europe Rundown” features more Balkan influenced themes over a moderate backbeat. All in all, another fine effort from Speed and his estimable associates.
Deviantics is for the most part, an exemplary effort as we continue to follow Speed’s highly intelligent and noticeably confident path through modern jazz. Strongly Recommended! * * * * 1/2
Chris Speed; Tenor Sax & Clarinet; Cuong Vu; Trumpet: Skuli Sverrisson; Bass: Jim Black; Drums and Melodica