Basho Records - Contemporary JazzBASHO RECORDS



My Ideal - Martin Speake with Ethan Iverson





"very beautiful recording...we really must believe in Martin Speake".
Ken Cheetham, Jazz Views

" listen again and it soon begins to stand comparison with anyone, anywhere".
Phil Johnson, The Independent

"A very enjoyable album".
Lara Bellini, Jazz

"Iverson's powers are probably better revealed in these bare surroundings than they are in the Bad Plus".
John Fordham, The Guardian

01 Everything Happens to Me (Dennis/Adair) 5:57
02 My Ideal (Whiting/Chase/Robin) 4:14
03 What is Thing Called Love? (Porter) 4:06
04 So In Love (Porter) 4:39
05 Loverman (Davis/Ramirez/Sherman) 5:40
06 Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Kern/Harbach) 3:05
07 Stardust (Carmichael/Parish) 3:35
08 How Insensitive (Jobim/Demoraes) 5:37
09 You Must Believe in Spring (Legrand/Demy/Bergman Bergman) 3:24
Total Time 40:40

Martin Speake, the British alto saxophonist, is often compared to Lee Konitz. Speake has his own distinctive sound but like Konitz he has an enthusiasm for putting himself in new contexts, exploring new ideas and working across musical styles. He has become a significant jazz presence.
Speake toured the UK with Ethan Iverson in 2002 when Ethan was musical director of the Mark Morris dance company in New York. As partners they are very well suited. He and Iverson share many qualities apart from their identical bald heads!

Both musicians have the ability to turn a tune in an unexpected direction and to startle the audience with surprising twists and turns which reveal a true eclectism of taste and ability. Ethan Iverson’s classical phrasing combined with virtuoso and often extremely powerful jazz technique mark him out as an unmistakeable presence. Combined with Martin Speake’s quirky and often understated interpretations of melody lines the duo create an interesting balance of styles which works well.

Martin Speake and Ethan Iverson finished off their 2002 UK tour with the recording of a new duo album MY IDEAL (SRCD 7-2).

The album was recorded at The Warehouse, in December 2002. Mastered by Ray Staff at Sony Music. Produced by Iain Ballamy. Executive Producer Christine Allen.

Martin Speake met pianist Ethan Iverson at Banff Centre for the Arts in 1990 where they both studied for a month with Steve Coleman, Kenny Wheeler, Rufus Reid, Kevin Eubanks, Stanley Cowell and others. They did not see each other again for more than ten years. Martin wondered what had happened to Ethan and found he had become the musical director of the Mark Morris Dance Company. This company visited England in 2001 and they got a chance to renew their musical friendship by playing through a few interesting standards and originals.
They hit it off musically despite being very different in their approach and decided to tour together in December 2002. Martin is known for the diversity of his projects and his interests in many areas of jazz music. This is reflected in his quartet with guitarist Mike Outram, bass Tom Herbert and Drummer Tom Skinner, Exploring Standards with Tom Skinner and Mick Hutton, free improvisation duo with drummer Mark Sanders, a duo with guitarist Colin Oxley, The Unison Quartet and a trio with sitarist Dharambir Singh and Sarvar Sabri, both of which perform Indian and Arabic influenced music, and The International Quartet with drummer Paul Motian, pianist Bobo Stenson and bassist Mick Hutton. This latter project has recently recorded for the prestigious ECM label.

"Speake's saxophone sound is a haunting mixture of fragile, silvery high-register playing and a plush, flugelhorn-like mid-range, and his momentum has an unswerving resolution of tempo. In these respects he resembles a Fifties Cool School improviser, but his phrasing represents a far more contemporary chemistry of long zigzagging lines and unexpected resolutions."
John Fordham - The Guardian

Ethan Iverson is now fast becoming the piano player to watch in jazz. He has collaborated with Dewey Redman, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Dave Douglas and Mark Turner and Billy Hart. He is now more well known for his role as pianist and composer with highly acclaimed and innovative trio The Bad Plus with David King and Reid Anderson who are signed to Columbia Records.

"Iverson is an original thinker and likely to be a very major force... implacably opposed to anything predictable, conventional or otherwise previously-done".
Penguin Guide To Jazz

"If you are after some good, solid, straight-ahead jazz, then don’t look any further than Basho Music. Their latest release, 'My Ideal', is founded on a ground of softly rearranged standards, and brings together alto saxophonist Martin Speake with pianist Ethan Iverson. An elegant and intense approach to expression enhances the already stellar magnitude of these classics.

Speake’s colour is a tale of delicacy that can suddenly unravel into solidly built passages, without losing its pensive touch. On the other hand, Iverson’s nervously cerebral signature is an unrestrained ride on tempestuous waves. Even when confined to accompaniment Iverson is charged with insatiable electricity, his fingers sparkle. Scales and chords multiply like curls of baroque buildings.

A very enjoyable album". Lara Bellini, Jazz

"British alto saxophonist Speake duets with a regular Transatlantic associate, the composer and pianist Ethan Iverson - better known as one-third of the lively and now fashionable genre-breakout band the Bad Plus.

Although that full-on trio's robust irony, percussion-driven ferocity and raucous reworking of old pop hits is on another, noisier planet to these stripped-down duets exploring standards and ballads, including Michel Legrand's You Must Believe in Spring and a variety of Cole Porters, Jerome Kerns and a Jobim.

But Speake's soft tone and undemonstrative audacity found an excellent counterpoise in Iverson, who is as likely to veer off into streams of classical arpeggios as he is to play swing or stride, though he does plenty of those too.

This music was recorded in December 2002 (and produced by Iain Ballamy, no stranger to saxophone understatement) when the pair were touring the UK, and their absorbing live show is recalled by Iverson's technically-sweeping free-classical upsurge after Speake's smoke-rings on Everything Happens to Me, the duo's limping, Monkish arrangement of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, and the almost sinister idling saunter of Jobim's How Insensitive. Iverson's powers are probably better revealed in these bare surroundings than they are in the Bad Plus". John Fordham, The Guardian

"Take My Ideal (Basho) by the alto saxophonist Martin Speake, 46, who as part of the sax quartet Itchy Fingers, won the 1986 Jazz Services/Schlitz competition that helped to kick-start the Eighties jazz revival. On the face of it, My Ideal is nothing special: duets of standards with the pianist Ethan Iverson from the American trio The Bad Plus. But listen again and it soon begins to stand comparison with anyone, anywhere. Speake's creamy, almost ingratiatingly melodic flights of fancy are continually brought crashing to the ground by the mad chromaticism of Iverson's piano vamps. It's ancient and modern at the same time; Beauty meets the Beast as written by Cole Porter, and then spoiled by Ornette Coleman". Phil Johnson, The Independent

"Martin Speake has a reputation for the variety of his interests in different areas of music and for the multiplicity of his ventures in developing his range in jazz. Given that, this album - a duet with piano - comes as no surprise, but one is immediately impressed by the opening bars of ‘Everything Happens to Me’, and subsequently by every arrangement, every note that follows. Martin’s phrasing is always out of the ordinary and in this selection his exceptional precision and control of that phrasing ride on the perfect foil of Ethan Iverson’s very personal piano language.

Martin first met Ethan in 1990 studying with Steve Coleman, Kenny Wheeler and others. Meeting again some 10 years later, they renewed their acquaintance by playing through a few numbers and hit it off musically, in spite of their very different approaches. They toured together then produced this very beautiful recording.

The CD offers just under 41 minutes of standard love songs and they are rendered in a compellingly plaintive mood. Only ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ is given any pace, another example of Martin’s atypical approach. The final track, ‘You Must Believe in Spring’ develops a certain power in both saxophone and piano parts in its final third, as though to emphasise the ‘must believe’ before returning to the general quietude in the coda.

I was very pleased to have the opportunity to review this album and feel that I should say that we really must believe in Martin Speake". Ken Cheetham, Jazz Views