Last february we presented Chris Speed's Yeah - No, an exciting quintet. For february/march we present another interesting project of clarinetist and tenorsax-player Chris Speed: Trio Iffy with Jamie Saft (kb) and Ben Perowsky (dr).
Perowsky sets a mainly swinging base, on which Saft builds his patters with his Organ keyboards. And on top comes Chris Speed with his remarkable playing of the clarinette and the tenosax. The music touches different fields: swing, avantgarde, klezmer, funk, blues. The music is exciting and catching.
Chris Speed Trio Iffy
o Chris Speed: ts, cl
o Jamie Saft: organ, kb
o Ben Perowsky: dr
Dates: 17th february - 6th march 2005
For further details:
p.o. box 2201
tel. +41 33 223.26.01
fax +41 33 222.06.01
mobile +41 79 310.22.42
Chris Speed Trio Iffy
By David Dacks
May 08, 2000
It's apparent from the first few notes of this disc that it's not an ECM release. This is no exercise in Nordic clarity; it's got the funk. It's not breakbeat funk, rather it's the warm, smoky vibe of Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff, as recorded during the heyday of Rudy Van Gelder, Blue Note's engineer from the '50s to the '70s. The first tune, "A Little Odd," captures the organ-grinding groove of those two masters, with Speed's Sidney Bechet homage dancing on top of the rhythm. After that, things get crankier and the trio sounds more like Tony Williams' early Lifetime, if a clarinettist had led them. Drummer Ben Perowsky is a force in rhythm and melody and the thick snare/kick balance achieved in the recording maximizes his contribution. There are few examples of good-sounding synths in jazz recordings, but Jamie Saft's approach to synth as a bass frequency generator works. His synth notions are similar in function to his pulsing bass pedals on the organ. Speed is fluent in noisy effects and in circular, melodic passages on both clarinet and tenor. The standout track is "Gina," a klezmer tune with a whiff of d&b - something like this shouldn't work, but damned if it isn't funky and melancholy all at once. Knitting Factory has a tendency to release albums that are too stiff and brainy for full-bodied enjoyment, so Iffy is a pleasant surprise. If you like Medeski, Martin and Wood, you should check this out.
Chicago Reader Chris Speed Trio
On their recent album, Iffy (Knitting Factory), Chris Speed's trio looks like a traditional organ combo, but he plays with the form's conventions at every turn. The well named opener, "A Little Odd," swings straightforwardly at first, as keyboardist Jamie Saft lays down a walking bass line, but then Speed pulls out his clarinet, and his liquid tone makes for a strange mix of colors with the soulful sound of the organ. A couple of tenor ballads get unusual twists, too: Saft offsets Speed's breathy lines on the brief "Part III" with dark harmonies, while the pretty melody on "Slippers" eschews the organ's usual grease for a delicate, poppy hookiness. Not surprisingly, a few of the tunes recall the experiments Speed has performed with drum'n'bass and eastern European folk in his Yeah No quartet: on the breakneck "Graphic Ridiculous," drummer Ben Perowsky approximates splattery jungle, Saft floats in choppy streams of floor-rumbling low end, and Speed blows furiously zigzagging clarinet lines that almost flaunt their cold precision. "Gina" opens with Perowsky playing a funky breakbeat and Saft sketching a simple, mournful chord progression, but as Speed tears into his bag of Balkan tricks, the tension shifts, the drums become more kinetic and insistent, and the organ licks verge on klezmer. The most extreme piece is "Skipping Really High," where Speed's overblown clarinet squeals form an unholy bond with a shrill organ drone before the tune morphs into a melancholy lullaby.
Saturday, April 7, at the Happy Dog Saloon.
BY HARVEY PEKAR
It's common practice for the avant-garde musicians who play in New York's downtown scene to perform in various groups simultaneously. This is the case with the members of Iffy, a trio that includes tenor saxophonist Chris Speed, organist Jamie Saft, and drummer Ben Perowsky. All of Iffy's members are important figures in the downtown scene. Speed, who doubles on clarinet, has been a major contributor to cutting-edge groups since he played with the outstanding Orange Then Blue big band in the mid-'90s. He's a thoughtful soloist whose influences include Lester Young and Albert Ayler. Saft, who, like Speed, attended the New England Conservatory of Music and played with Orange Then Blue, ranks among the best and most versatile of today's keyboard artists; he's adept on both acoustic and electronic instruments. Although it's not so obvious with Iffy, Saft has picked up ideas not only from jazz, but also classical, rock, and reggae forms. Perowsky also fits into a variety of contexts. Iffy has released one self-titled CD on the Knitting Factory label, and while some of its tracks are fairly simple, the playing on them becomes increasingly daring as they evolve. The trio's work on songs like "Coo Coo" has a post-boppish quality, except that Saft's rumbling work on it adds another dimension. Saft turns in the most violent work on the disc, but his playing on the lovely "Slippers" has a classical quality. He and Speed also create some unique textures during "Skipping Really High," a track whose title summarizes the group's ambition.
Downtown Music Gallery CHRIS SPEED TRIO IFFY
This is Chris' new trio with Jamie Saft on organ & synth, Ben Perowsky on drums and Chris on clarinet & tenor sax. Each of Chris Speed's bands are much different, almost opposites in nature. Bloodcount, who haven't played in a while, are an intense & gnarly double sax out/jazz qt. who play long & winding pieces; Pachora, who just got off the road promoting their third cd, are much lighter, more melodic and have middle-eastern euro grooves. He can also be found playing in groups for Dave Douglas & Myra Melford, and has two fine quartet cds as a leader on Songlines as well. Still, this new trio release is something else again. Electric keyboard wiz Jamie Saft has played in Saft/Vu (on Avant), is on a few of Zorn's cds and is featured on funky el. piano on Cuong Vu's latest new release. Ben Perowsky is also a busy drummer who released his own trio cd in the past year and has also played for Zorn and Dave Douglas. It is Jamie's organ that seems to be the defining sound on this fine release, he also plays the bass parts, since there is no bass player here. This is certainly Chris' most jazz-like cd so far with Jamie taking a more traditional role on organ. Chris has written some great, challenging, aggressive, quick-spinning tunes that push the abilities of each member of the trio to their full extent. I can't recall hearing any other clarinet & organ combos of note, but it really works well hear! Each of these tunes has an indelible groove, especially the tunes with Chris on tenor sax, linked to the tradition of 60's organ groove combos often coming out of Newark, NJ. Even Chris' tone on tenor sax seem to come right out of that older tradition of honkers. The tunes featuring the clarinet do have a somewhat more eastern tinge, with Chris playing inspired solos throughout. A strong offering from a solid trio that at times reminds me of Tony Williams Lifetime when Larry Young was in the band.
WaterfrontWeek Chris Speed Trio Iffy
When does Mr. Speed find time to sleep? He plays clarinet and/or saxophone with fellow jazz Brooklynites Myra Melford and Mark Dresser, his own Yeah No quartet and Pachora (both previously praised in these pages), and many others too numerous to mention. And all of these projects/bands have their own distinctive slant to them, presenting different sides to an almost maddening eclectic musical sensibilities. In plain English, ya can't put him in a box with either Wynton Marsalis or John Zorn.
So what about this new disc, you say? Why should this disc be added to my growing/shrinking pile of CDs (depending on how far away payday is), especially if I already got a few with this Speed guy on them? Answer: this swell new platter Iffy. It's a document of a somewhat unique synthesis of two diverging paths of Le Jazz Du Modern: the groovy soul-organ combo sound, as typified by Joey DeFrancesco and locals the Sugarman Three, and the spiky thrust of what used to be called "modern jazz," a tag stuck on most of the post- Charlie Parker axis of jazz, including Jimmy Giuffre, Buddy DeFranco (one of the few clarinetists to play in the bop idiom), Steve Lacy and John Coltrane. To put it plainly, Speed's quirky but impassioned clarinet and robust tenor saxophone jumping and wailing over the cushy, plush tones of Jamie Saft's Hammond organ sound and the careening swing of Ben Perowsky's drums. Unlike many of the Zorn/improv scene of horn players, there's an R&B-derived streak in his playing. Speed plays a hearty, big-toned, blues charged style of sax here - you'd swear he'd been basting his horn with the juices of soulful tenormen Gene Ammon, Ike Quebec and Red Prysock. If you think avant-stuff can't groove, or if you wish these lounge cats would take a dip in the waters Pharoaoh Sanders swims in, Iffy is the way to go.
Mark Keresman April 2000
Speed has been around the Big Apple music scene since the early 1990's and has palled around with the likes of Zorn, Douglas, and Berne, to name just a few. His new CD, Iffy (great title), might be classified an organ trio date, but it's like no other I've heard.
With the freewheeling and solid support of drummer Ben Perowsky and the
over-the-top adventurousness of organ/synth pilot Jamie Saft, Speed and company kick proverbial ass as they paint sonic graffiti on the walls of established musical styles. Some of this is accomplished by juxtaposing unexpected contrasts: the opener, "A Little Odd," reveals, immediately, what an absolutely lovely tone Speed gets on clarinet. His purity of sound and elastic technique compare favorably to that of Richard Stoltzman, himself a world-class player. His tenor sax also comes across strongly. It has an authoritative swagger that harks back to the best of Steve Grossman.
These fellows know subtlety, but they're not shy. "FMU" gets a most unusual "organ trio" treatment: Saft plays an interlude that's a mixture of Bach and "Rated X" era Miles Davis, only to emerge with a Shirley Scott funk-bop groove driven by the soulful Perowsky with passionate sermonizing by the leader in the mix. "Gina" starts with a bit of a hip-hop/funk backbeat that, initially, sounds too pat. But before you know it - Klezmer emerges! Speed delves into the scratchy netherworlds of his straight black stick on "Graphic Ridiculous" with Saft working himself into a Sun Ra lather shooting sparks, foam, and confetti all around the joint. For a very intriguing ballad, check out "Part III" with its white noise brushwork.
I love Joey D. and respect Larry Goldings, but this is really something else - not your father's Jazz organ trio. If there's a hot lounge in sci-fi land, then the CST should get the gig. It's an exciting group with a fresh vision that begs you to hop on for a ride. A tasty treat!