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Speed, Chris: Light Line (Intakt)

An absolutely impressive album of solo clarinet improvisations from reedist Chris Speed, known well for his saxophone work, here he displays inventive and implicitly lyrical approaches to this challenging reed instrument through great discipline, tone & technical skill as he presents succinct works inspired by John Coltrane, Julius Hemphill, Eric Dolphy and Paul Motion, &c.

Price: $17.95


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Shipping Weight: 2.00 units

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product information:

UPC: 7640120193645

Label: Intakt
Catalog ID: ITK364.2
Squidco Product Code: 31393

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2021
Country: Switzerland
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold 3 Panels
Recorded in San Diego, California, in October, 2020, by Anthony Burr.


Chris Speed-clarinet

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Artist Biographies:
"Chris Speed is a composer, clarinetist and saxophonist - and is "one of the principal figures in a dynamic left-of-center jazz/improv scene in the city" (NYTimes). His own bands include Endangered Blood, Human Feel, yeah NO, Trio Iffy, Pachora and The Clarinets. He is a founding member of Jim Black's Alas No Axis and John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet (two of the most influential working bands today), works with Uri Caine (deconstructing works by Mahler, Mozart, Bach, Schoenberg, Gershwin) and maintains a busy career of touring, recording, performing, composing, practicing and teaching. Current projects include work with Craig Taborn's Heroic Frenzies, Michael Formanek's Ensemble Kolossus, Dave King's Trucking Co., Matt Mitchell Quartet, Mary Halvorson's Reverse Blue, Banda de los Muertos (NYC's only Banda band), as well as touring his latest project, Endangered Blood (with Black, Trevor Dunn and Oscar Noriega) which was featured on NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts in 2012. (Endangered Blood 2010, Work Your Magic 2013 Skirl). "Speed's Endangered Blood originals stand out as his most melodically generous, accessible and warm batch of compositions he's yet to produce." -DownBeat ****Born in 1967, Speed grew up in the Seattle area where he met future colleagues Jim Black and Andrew D'Angelo, all of whom ended up in Boston in the late 80's where they formed Human Feel with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. (Scatter 1992, Welcome to Malpesta 1994, Speak To It 1996, Galore 2007). While in Boston he studied at New England Conservatory and graduated in 1990. By 1992, after a short tour with the Artie Shaw Band (led by Dick Johnson), Speed moved to New York City where he started working with Tim Berne's (now legendary touring band) Bloodcount. (Unwound 1996, Discretion 1997, Saturation Point 1997, The Seconds 2006).In April 2006, he launched Skirl Records, a label dedicated to Brooklyn based creative music" -Chris Speed Website (

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track listing:

1. Light Line 4:09

2. Drifting 2:48

3. Sphasos Triem 3:35

4. Tassos 1:51

5. Miss Ann 2:21

6. Rites 2:45

7. Cat Heaven 3:04

8. Sparkle Pants 2:49

9. Retrogression 3:14

10. Shields Up 3:19

11. A Week From Now 2:25

12. Enfant 2:30

13. La Rosita Arribena 3:24

14. Sun Ship 2:26

15. It Should've Happened A Long Time Ago 5:01
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Chris Speed, a driving force of modern jazz for decades, presents an impressive solo statement on the clarinet. The repertoire of this musical legacy includes his own pieces and short improvisations, as well as compositions by inspiring luminaries such as John Coltrane, Julius Hemphill, Eric Dolphy and Paul Motion. In addition, there are compositions by friends and long-time musical companions such as Andrew D'Angelo, Skuli Sverrisson and Hilmar Jensson. There is "an implicit guiding light through the whole project: the commitment to reduction, to finding the power in taking things away, the power in trusting that there is still a lot there once you do take the surface layers away, and above all an undying commitment to melody in some elemental sense as the primary element in music."- Anthony Burr, liner notes

"Solo reed albums used to be an uncommon commodity. Infrequent were the improvisers like Anthony Braxton who embraced the format as means of early trailblazing expression; his sea changing For Alto on the Delmark label set an early benchmark. Since that pinnacle it's become a rite of passage that reedists reconcile at various points in their careers. Solitary clarinet ventures are historically even scarcer. The pandemic changed all of that, making in-person musical production outside of the immediate household a potentially hazardous prospect. Left largely to their own devices over the past sixteen-months, reedists of all shapes, sizes and proclivities have taken to the form. Solo projects from this period by Dave Rempis, J.D. Allen, John Butcher and others are in the pipeline or already in the public marketplace. Light Line aligns gamely and germanely with that esteemed number.

Chris Speed's been around a good while as a bandleader, improviser and sideman. An early post in Tim Berne's Blood Count and other projects demanded both chops and creativity that carried over into a dozen other contexts. Clarinet's been an ongoing, if arguably secondary, concern across that through line. A pull quote from colleague Anthony Burr gracing the album tray copy distills the aegis behind the effort: "an undying commitment to melody in some elemental sense as the primary element in music." Speed mostly eschews elaborate displays of technique, preferring instead to bask in the melodic properties of the meticulously chosen song list as filtered through the limpid aural idiosyncrasies of his instrument. The opening title piece is a bracing case in point and an endearing exercise in fluttering, flickering chiaroscuro.

Original pieces intersperse with the selections from Speed's pantheon of influences. All adhere to modest temporal limits that make them worthy of jukebox consideration. Themes and associative variations dance by like colorful airborne acrobats. "Drifting" and "Sphasos Triem" borrowed from Speed's colleagues Skuli Sverrisson and Andrew D'Angelo, respectively, display intervallic dexterity that's by turns dizzying and grin-inducing. Eric Dolphy's "Miss Ann" is similarly steeped in terpsichorean leaps, this time circling a more constricted tonal center. "Rites" by Julius Hemphill prefaces a four-tune succession of originals starting with the "Cat Heaven," which harkens to Mingus' "Canon" in its gently fibrillating theme. Speed arguably saves the best for last with the parting one-two punch of Coltrane's seraphic "Sunship" and Paul Motian's haunting ballad "It Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago." "-Derek Taylor, Dusted Magazine

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Recordings by or featuring Reed & Wind Players
Solo Artist Recordings
New in Improvised Music
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