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Martin Speake/Nikki Iles/Duncan Hopkins/Anthony Michelli: Secret (2001)

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Martin Speake/Nikki Iles/Duncan Hopkins/Anthony Michelli: Secret How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Secret is a cooperative quartet comprised of British altoist Martin Speake and pianist Nikki Iles, together with Canadian bassist Duncan Hopkins and drummer Anthony Michelli. Their eponymous debut as a unit, recorded in the fall of 2000 in London, is a 79-minute opportunity to hear a new combo. All but two of the compositions are written by Iles (5), Speake (5) and Hopkins (2).

The most immediate reason for celebration is the work of Martin Speake. He has more than a passing resemblance to Jackie McLean and carries the torch of post bop into the new millennium without a glance backwards. His styling is that of a bopper with the fluency of a Charles McPherson in the mid-1960s updated to today's scene. Speake was responsible for the formation of the group and they seem to mesh very well together. In fact, the others record and tour as a working unit as the Nikki Iles Trio.

The album begins in a ballad or mid-tempo fashion, almost leisurely, on the first four tracks. On "J.T.'s Symmetrical Scale" Speake picks it up and interplay with Iles leads into an acerbic solo. Michelli uses brushes throughout on the tune. Speake also plays aggressively on "Fly's Dilemma," followed by a surging piano solo by Iles. B.B. King may have advised all that "The Thrill is Gone," but on Secret's updating of the Brown & Henderson standard, an attractive ballad delivery becomes a funky showcase.

In all, most of the original tunes are fine vehicles for ensemble and solo performance, and the album concludes with Jobim's "Luiza." Since this album, the different group members have recorded on several other Basho albums. Speake has a pending ECM release with Bobo Stenson and Paul Motian and expects to be signed to the label. His duo album My Ideal with Ethan Iverson, pianist for the Bad Plus, was released by Basho in spring of 2004.


Track Listing: Secret Place, Veils, The Heron, Oncology, J.T.'s Symmetrical Scale, The Thrill is Gone, Westerly, Coventry, So to Speake, Fly's Dilemma, Nikki, Secret Wood, Willow(for Mick Hutton), Luiza

Personnel: Martin Speake, alto sax; Nikkii Iles,piano; Duncan Hopkins,bass; Anthony Michelli,drums.

Record Label: Basho Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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