CD Review: Martin Speake – Live at Riverhouse

Martin Speake – Live at Riverhouse
(Pumpkin Records PUMPKIN003. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Altoist Martin Speake has always occupied the poised, thoughtful, elegant -– even cerebral -– end of the jazz spectrum, and this band (previously heard on 2007’s Generations) specialises in intelligent, subtle arrangements of standards.

Here, the quartet (completed by pianist Barry Green, bassist Dave Green and drummer Jeff Williams) entertains a discreetly appreciative live audience at the Surrey venue of its title with intriguing visits to some familiar evergreens (‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’, ‘Round Midnight’), some slightly less celebrated material (‘When You’re Smiling’, Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Smile’) and a tune that might have profited from being less familiar (‘Strangers in the Night’, arguably the album’s one misstep, since even this artful version cannot quite expunge the memory of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ grandiloquent schmaltz).

Pianist Green is equally adept at unobtrusive accompaniment and more  pungent, unexpectedly spiky solos; bassist Green (no relation) is simply his peerless self throughout, particularly effective at stating melodies (his intro to ‘When You’re Smiling’ a small gem); Williams is tastefully restrained but propulsive. It is Speake, however, who most frequently draws the ear, his apparent ‘cool’ concealing considerable depths, both emotional and musical, and this is a worthy addition to his now gratifyingly weighty discography.


Categories: miscellaneous

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