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July/August 2006

Martin Speake
Change of Heart
ECM Records

Change of Heart is yet another example of how ECM is able to startle the ethnocentric American audience with the strength of the European jazz scene. Martin Speake has made 10 albums as a leader and has been involved in a diverse range of London-based projects. His first recording for an internationally distributed label is quietly stunning. His alto saxophone voice has some of the cool, intelligent clarity of Lee Konitz, but Speake's music encompasses more contrasts. While his ideas follow free impulses, his discipline and focus make the eight originals of Change of Heart feel like one sustained fabric of intense reflection.

The world-class rhythm section here is pianist Bobo Stenson, bassist Mick Hutton and drummer Paul Motian. Speake and Stenson often sound like tonal variants of one consciousness, searching together through the diverse connotations of Speake's tunes, veering into one fresh discovery after another. A fervent creative pressure motivates their explorations of slow pieces like “Venn” and “Buried Somewhere” and “In the Moment.” They do not present themselves like ballads—they burn.

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.

Originally published in July/August 2006
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