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.
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.
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."
"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 Review.com
"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