MARTIN SPEAKE BOBO STENSON DUO
Alto saxophonist Martin Speake first introduced himself to Bobo Stenson in 1999 when Bobo’s trio was playing at the Pizza Express in London, and suggested the idea of a collaboration with US drummer Paul Motian (who had played with Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and many others) and UK bassist Mick Hutton. Bobo was not familiar with Martin’s music but knew Paul, but had never played with him, and was curious about the idea and said yes.
In 2000 Cheltenham Jazz festival commissioned Martin to compose for this International Quartet and they premiered Martin's new music there and did a 10 date UK tour supported by the Arts Council of England.
The band got on well musically and socially and in 2001 got together again for another UK tour.
Manfred Eicher of ECM heard about the project through Paul and Bobo who both had recorded extensively for the label and was also curious about this band. In 2002 the Quartet recorded in Oslo at Rainbow Studios an album of Martin’s compositions entitled Change of Heart and that was released in 2006 to worldwide critical acclaim.
Since Paul’s death in 2011 Bobo and Martin have played in other quartet permutations and in duo featuring more of Martin’s music, the occasional rarely played ‘standard’ song and repertoire from classical music used as vehicles to improvise on.
Speake has been a professional musician for some 40 years. First coming to prominence in 1986 with the saxophone quartet Itchy Fingers winning the Schlitz Young Jazz Musician award and touring the world with them for two years. After leaving them in 1988 he has embarked on a solo career and has been a prolific writer and recording artist. Speake's music is difficult to categorise as he has many influences and he has worked in many contexts from the straight ahead, Indian/Arab music, free improvisation, improvising on Bartok themes, and much original music.
Stenson's career goes back nearly 60 years. Although he leads his own successful trio (with bassist Anders Jormin and drummer Jon Falt) he is perhaps best known for his work with others. "Witchi Tai To" and Dansere" his 1970's albums made with a quartet co-led by saxophonist Jan Garbarek are widely regarded as classics of the ECM oeuvre. He also worked with the late trumpeter Don Cherry and in the late 80's/early 90's a lengthy spell with saxophonist Charles Lloyd raised his international profile. He appears on several of Lloyd's ECM albums. Stenson is a lyrical and inventive pianist with an awesome technique.
Change of Heart makes a compelling case that Martin Speake is one of the most interesting and rewarding alto saxophonists now playing jazz on any continent. Thomas Conrad Jazz Times
Change of Heart is one of those jazz records that is at once accessible, clear and limpid. However, it also is a place of secrets, shadows, and labyrinthine gestures that are only uncovered with repeated listening. Thom Jurek, All Music Guide
There is a fragile beauty to the way this music hangs together. You cannot help but wonder at the sheer craftsmanship that made it possible. Stuart Nicholson Observer Music Monthly
Simple directness, overtly beautiful, cool and compact: just wonderful. Budd Kopmann All About Jazz
Speake’s playing can be as enigmatic as his writing. The lyricism and subtlety of both his written and improvised melodies sometimes unfold so gradually that one needs to take a mental step back to absorb it all. That characteristic well suits the strength in understated elegance that marks Change of Heart—a fine album that, by revealing more with each successive listen, will undoubtedly stand the test of time. John Kelman All About Jazz
This is surely Martin Speake’s finest album to date. There’s a warm, reflective and ambient feeling to the record that draws listeners into the musicians’ space and holds them suspended in that world. A real and lasting achievement. Duncan Heining Jazzwise
Clearly inspired by the acutely sensitive, flexible, utterly sympathetic and mutually supportive rhythm section, Speake, who wrote all the originals, is in arresting form; wholly individual and innocent of cliché, his work is remarkable for its consistency of invention. One of the cd’s of the year. Ray Comiskey Irish Times