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Chris Speed Trio: Iffy

Glenn Astarita By

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After releasing two noteworthy and thoroughly – cutting edge – recordings for the “Songlines” modern-jazz label, saxophonist/clarinetist/composer Chris Speed adds new meaning to the phrase – power organ trio – with his latest endeavor and first recording for “Knitting Factory Records”, titled Iffy. With this outing, Speed utilizes the laudable talents of keyboardist Jamie Saft who is rapidly evolving into a dynamo of lofty proportions and the equally adept, hard hitting drummer/bandleader Ben Perowsky, as the Trio pursues power-organ grooves with a modern-jazz slant.

Speed and associates waste little time going for the jugular on the opener titled, “A Little Odd” while Saft perpetuates massively swinging B-3 organ lines underneath Speed’s gorgeously lyrical and memorably melodic phrasing performed on clarinet. A contrast of sorts, as Speed’s delicate yet purposeful attack, melds nicely with Perowsky’s brawny rhythmic pulse and Saft’s hard-edged execution. Throughout, Jamie Saft is liable to smother or swarm over his B-3/keyboards while concurrently paying some noticeable homage to the late great organist, Larry Young. Perhaps, Saft is carrying Young’s – innovative torch – while also possessing a charismatic voice of his own! On ”Graphic Ridiculous”, Speed multitasks as he restates the main theme while also supporting the always burgeoning flow. Here, Saft increases the momentum with an engagingly boisterous tirade behind the keys of his B-3 keyboard.

Speed picks up the tenor sax on the combo Texas roadhouse/bop piece “FMU”, as the musicians interweave Monk-ish lines into swinging grooves and overstated themes whereas Saft constructs dark, ominous and somewhat mysterious B-3 voicings, via his utilization of extended notes, and oscillating sounds. The men also turn in swift unison hard-bop phrasing on “CooCoo” as Saft proceeds to develop a wall of sound amid vigorous soloing and punishing choruses!

Chris Speed possesses a true renaissance spirit! Along with the band, “Pachora” who meld “Balkan and North African motifs” with modern jazz ideologies, a lengthy and quite fruitful affiliation with altoist Tim Berne and other ventures too numerous to mention here, Iffy marks yet another new direction for this modern day stylist. Basically, Chris Speed is one of modern-jazz’ great young explorers who along with a select few are reforming or modifying traditional concepts while pursuing novel philosophies in conjunction with often mind-bending technical acumen! .... Highly recommended. - * * * * ½

Visit the Knitting Factory Records website at: www.knittingfactory.com


Title: Iffy | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Knitting Factory


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