Reedist Chris Speed digs into his deep jazz roots with Bad Plus drummer Dave King and bassist Chris Tordini | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Reedist Chris Speed digs into his deep jazz roots with Bad Plus drummer Dave King and bassist Chris Tordini 

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click to enlarge Chris Tordini, Chris Speed, and Dave King

Chris Tordini, Chris Speed, and Dave King

Felix Zimmermann

I’ve been a huge fan of reedist Chris Speed for decades. He’s an improviser who’s adroitly experimented with various strains of jazz hybridization over his long career, whether transplanting rhythmic ideas from electronica into his avant-garde quartet Yeah No, toying with the music of Balkans in his fusion-heavy ensemble Pachora, or creating new chamber music in John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet. Speed’s rigorous curiosity may take him in varied directions, but he filters all of his endeavors through a deep jazz foundation. In recent years he’s let that core of his musical personality glisten in a trio featuring bassist Chris Tordini and Bad Plus drummer Dave King. Last year the group dropped their second album, Platinum on Tap (Intakt), a gorgeously melodic affair that toggles between exquisite balladry on tunes such as the sensual opener, “Red Hook Nights,” and off-kilter swing, as on the seductive, jagged “Crooked Teeth.” Speed sticks exclusively to tenor saxophone, unleashing his velvety, beautifully muted tone on a dazzling set of tunes, and though he wrote most of the music, he expresses himself just as much on its two covers. He dances through Hoagy Carmichael ballad “Stardust” as if he’s reinvented its melody and shrouded it in darkness, and sprints through a killer version of Albert Ayler’s “Spirits” as though it were a bebop theme—departing from the composer’s gospel-steeped vibe in order to break the melody apart and reassemble it into mosaiclike abstraction. Throughout the record, the trio blur the line between intricate blues and breathy tenderness. There are few working bands in jazz that excite me as much as this one; this is their overdue Chicago debut.   v

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