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In 2002, British alto saxophonist Martin Speake toured the United Kingdom doing duet concerts with Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson. At the end of the tour, they recorded My Ideal.
Speake plays alto with a tart, dry sound that recalls Lee Konitz, and his pairing with Bad Plus bad boy Iverson may seem like an odd couple, but for the most part, it works. When Speake plays melodies, he is a very direct and lyrical player, and when he solos, he swings in relaxed fashion. At times he investigates the furthest reaches of the chord progressions, and sometimes he snarls flurries of notes, especially when prodded by Iverson. Speake is particularly inviting on "What Is This Thing Called Love?" and "You Must Believe In Spring."
Ethan Iverson adds interest by using a variety of stylistic approaches. He is bombastic and dissonant on "Everything Happens To Me," and he hammers out a mock tango on "So In Love." But Iverson is most appealing when he undergirds Speake with a sly swing, as he does on "My Ideal."
At times, the improvisers clash, as on "You Must Believe In Spring," where Speake responds to the pianist's clambering accompaniment with his most aggressive solo of the date. And too many of the performances seem to settle into the same medium tempo. Most of the time, however, these two perform this program of standards with a genuine rapport, peeking into musical nooks and crannies and creating this gently rewarding CD while they're at it.
Track Listing: Everything Happens To Me, My Ideal, What Is This Thing Called Love?, So In Love, Loverman, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Stardust, How Insensitive, You Must Believe In Spring.
Personnel: Martin Speake, alto saxophone; Ethan Iverson, piano.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.