Loz Speyer’s Inner Space Life on the Edge
(Leo Records LR782. CD review by Jon Turney)
Develop a set of tunes on the road so that they take on their fullest life, then grab the results in the studio, quick. It’s an old recipe, brought beautifully to new fruition here with excellent ingredients – a three-horn front-line and an invigoratingly flexible rhythm section.
Leader Loz Speyer writes catchy themes and plays trumpet and flugelhorn in a fluent freebop style that occasionally recalls Harry Beckett or the lyricism of Ornette Coleman’s “other” trumpeter, Bobby Bradford. Coleman is a clear influence here, with some tunes strongly reminiscent of the great man’s early style, and Speyer’s long-time cohort Chris Biscoe takes the cue impressively well on alto sax. Mingus comes to mind now and then, too, with plenty of tri-horn polyphony as alto interweaves with trumpet and with Rachel Musson’s engagingly edgy tenor lines.
It was a modest, ten date tour, but the 11 pieces here, captured in a single day’s recording, profit throughout from the deeper interaction honed by live performance. The rhythm section has tremendous heft. Olie Brice’s bass digs in like Johnny Dyani on the opener, Long Road, which has a near-township bounce, and gambols merrily elsewhere. Gary Willcox on drums drops in and out of the groove with the insouciant swing of the best modern drummers.
The studio cuts are short – the longest comes in at just over 8 minutes – so just occasionally they could stand more development. But these players pack a lot in: the mood of the reflective Deep Sea Spirit is explored so effectively the track feels as it if has absorbed the listener for a longer span that it’s sub-five minute running time. The same expansive effect is repeated elsewhere, in tracks that provide a constant flow of ideas, the horns sometimes jostling busily for attention, sometimes conversing, sometimes singing sweetly together. The result is an impressively varied set, spiced with occasional contributions from Biscoe on alto clarinet and Masson on soprano sax, and marked throughout by a sweetly expressed freedom of melodic invention.
Anyone with ears for William Parker’s quartets with Hamid Drake, for Jeff Williams’ recent recordings, or – longer ago – for Bobby Bradford’s Motet or Andrew Cyrille’s old group Maono, will find this a rewarding item. But while you listen, thoughts of influences fall away and you can just enjoy this newly created music for itself. That is the sound of success.