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Chris Speed: Playing For The Team

Tom Greenland By

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Human Feel
Galore
Skirl
2007



Chris Speed has been perking up audience ears since the early 1990s, when he and a talented coterie of Boston music students descended on Manhattan to test their mettle in the downtown scene. One of the important outgrowths of this camaraderie was Human Feel, a quartet (originally a quintet) with Speed, Andrew D'Angelo (alto saxophone, bass clarinet), Jim Black (drums) and Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar).



Although unrecorded since 1996, Galore marks the group's triumphant return. Like much of Speed's other work, the disc embodies an all-for-one ethos, as on "Fuss," when the tenor saxophone, guitar and bass clarinet fire off screaming salvos that explode and cascade like a fireworks display; or on "Cat Heaven," which combines ring-modulator effects and rubato trills to enact a space-opera soundtrack; or on "Apch Ro Ha," when the three melody instruments co-improvise to an intuitively felt common pulse.



All elements unite on "F*ck The Development Of You," an odyssey of island-hops to strange places, including looped electronica, ecstatic blowouts, diminishing rhythmic groupings (eg, 12-11-10-9, etc.), and radical dynamic contrasts—all rendered with the loose precision of a Mingus band.

Buffalo Age
Buffalo Age
ILK
2007

Buffalo Age, Speed's project with Peter Bruun (drums), Nils Davidsen (bass) and Kasper Tranberg (trumpet)—all Danes—is also collaborative in spirit, expressed via Bruun's compositions. The album displays a more subdued disposition, often expressed through slow moving, close-voiced chorale textures that emphasize the subtle variations of consonance and dissonance that occur when two pitches are juxtaposed in stark relief, an effect especially noticeable on "Hero," "Walls," "Mama Maya," and the title track. As on Galore, many pieces use interesting rhythmic groupings: "Qool" has a 12-beat form with an extended final beat; "Hero" has a 19-beat cycle, and "Vibraslap" is 21 pulses. Bruun supplies ample timbral contrasts with cymbal scrapes and scratches, bare hands and mallets, rattles, shakers and gongs; Davidsen employs extended techniques and electronic processing to add variety. The musical empathy and affinity is especially apparent on the title track: the beautiful blending on the head, the open section immediately following, and the bass-trumpet interplay during Tranberg's "solo."



Speed, once again, somehow manages to project both staunch individuality and strong team spirit. To keep tabs on him is to take the pulse of some of the most stimulating currents in new music today.


Tracks & Personnel

Galore

Tracks: Tap Master; After the Fact; Fuss; Cat Heaven; Improve; F*ck The Development Of You; Serenade; Apch Ro Ha; Allegiance.

Personnel: Jim Black: drums, electronics; Andrew D'Angelo: alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Kurt Rosenwinkel: guitar, voice; Chris Speed: tenor saxophone, clarinet.

Buffalo Age

Tracks: Qool; Hero; Walls; Campo Nijar; Muffintop; Vibraslap; Buffalo Age; Mama Maya.

Personnel: Chris Speed: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Kasper Tranberg: trumpet; Nils Davidsen: bass; Peter Bruun: drums.

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