The Squid's Ear Magazine

Speed, Chris Trio (w/ Chris Tordini / Dave King): Despite Obstacles (Intakt)

The 3rd Intakt release from NY multi-reedist and composer Chris Speed's Trio with bassist Chris Toridini and drummer Dave King, who is also a part of Speed's other working band The Bad Plus, this new album presenting eight original Speed compositions that, as Speed explains, get to the point of featuring the song, the sophisticated melodies around which this excellent trio pivot.

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product information:

UPC: 7640120194048

Label: Intakt
Catalog ID: ITK404.2
Squidco Product Code: 33407

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: Switzerland
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold 3 Panels w/ booklet
Recorded at Brooklyn Recording, in NYC, on April 28th, and July 24th, 2022,by Andy Taub.


Chris Speed-tenor saxophone, clarinet

Chris Tordini-acoustic bass

Dave King-drums

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Chris Speed's superb trio with bassist Chris Tordini and drummer Dave King continues to write it's band history with Despite Obstacles, their third album on Intakt Records.

Releasing ten years after their debut album, Despite Obstacles is a testament to the band's continued vitality. Speed, a recent member of the newly arranged The Bad Plus where he is reunited with Dave King in another working band, explains the constitutive impetus for this trio: "The initial idea for this trio was to play more swing-based music, to stay in a jazz-trio world." and Kevin Whitehead adds in the liner notes: "Some saxophonists use trios to stretch way out. Chris Speed has other ideas. 'I gravitate to getting to the point - featuring the song. I love to explore and open things up but there needs to be a directness as well.'"-Intakt

"Saxophonist and clarinetist Chris Speed, a native of Seattle, has been a mainstay of the New York improvising scene for several years. Besides recording in his own name and co-leading several projects - Endangered Blood, Broken Shadows, and Pachora - he heavily contributed to the success of groups such as John Hollenbeck's The Claudia Quintet and Jim Black's AlasNoAxis. He joined the prestigious The Bad Plus in 2022, a modern trio turned quartet whose drummer is Dave King, a member of his sympathetic trio since 2017. Rounding out the group is the sturdy, sought-after bassist Chris Tordini.

Despite Obstacles is Speed's third trio outing, following Platinum on Tap (2017) and Respect For Your Toughness (2019), and comprises eight original compositions where creative juices are in full swing. There's brawn and brain in Speed's music and the opener, "Advil", is a great example of that. The first-class melody strolls over a temperate indie rock texture, finding the right balance between power and finesse. Whether fragmented, motivic or fluid, Speed's sharp-edged phrases are intriguingly captivating, as well as his veiled tone on tenor.

Flowing in five, "Wrangled" is even more enigmatic as it hinges on an inventive beat with opportune displacements and resolution delays to continuously catch our attention. Also in five, "Lone Satellite" feels very improvisatory; I love those clouded low-pitched notes that Speed extracts from his horn.

A poised approach to rhythm and harmony is put on display on "Uncomfortable Truths", a dance with something folk in it, something pop too. Analogously dancing, the title cut has Speed probing inside/outside kinetics while the rhythm section enforces meter and rhythm variations. And then, we have two trad-jazz-inflected beauties in "Sunset Park in July", a luminous brushed ballad that I imagined sung by Billie Holiday, and the sweet-natured "Amos", which, swinging at its own discretion, features Speed on clarinet and Tordini in a thrusting solo.

Speed's wish to make the music feel good is accomplished, and he keeps his trio fresh and vibrant."-Filipe Freitas, JazzTrail

Get additional information at Jazz Trail

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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"Christopher Tordini is an in-demand bassist on the New York City music scene, where he performs with established jazz icons as well as a diverse range of emerging musicians. He has toured and recorded with Andy Milne's Dapp Theory for over 5 years, and has also played in bands led by other renowned artists such as Greg Osby and Jeremy Pelt. Tordini plays often with drummer Ari Hoenig, with the Becca Stevens Band, and is a key collaborator in projects led by drummer/composer Tyshawn Sorey and trombonist/composer Michael Dessen. A graduate of the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, Tordini forged strong professional relationships with several faculty members there, including Rory Stuart and George Garzone, with whom he continues to collaborate. Recently, Tordini has performed and recorded with prominent bandleaders such as Steve Lehman, Okkyung Lee, Tigran Hamasyan, Jo-Yu Chen, Mike Pinto, Andrew D'Angelo, Jim Black, and Yaron Herman. He has played at New York City's most prestigious jazz venues, including the Blue Note, the Village Vanguard, the Iridium, the Jazz Standard, Smalls, the Jazz Gallery and the Stone, among many others."

-Home Gift of Music (

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"Born 1970 Minneapolis MN
Studied piano and drums as a young person. Played in some amazing grade school, jr high school and high school bands and ensembles..............seriously ground breaking in approach and chart selection including a big band version of "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A" by John Mellancamp (formally known as John Cougar and John Cougar-Mellancamp).
Moved out east for a moment in 1989 when nyc still had barrel fires burning in lots that now house the American Apparel flagship store next to a place you can get a $7.00 espresso.
Moved to Los Angeles in 1991 to warm up a bit.
Was a couple of miles from the epicenter of the 1994 L.A. earthquake.
Decided that wasn't the place for me.
Moved back to Minneapolis.
Co founded Happy Apple.
Co founded Love-Cars.
Co founded Halloween, Alaska.
Joined 12Rods.
In 2000 co founded The Bad Plus in NYC.
Co founded The Gang Font featuring Greg Norton of punk icons Husker Du.
Have Performed music in 75 countries and 6 continents.
Have appeared on over 50 recordings.
Besides my working groups I have recorded and or performed with Bill Frisell, Joshua Redman, Dewey Redman. Jeff Beck. Tim Berne, Hank Roberts, Chris Speed, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Django Bates, Dead Prez, The Coup, Joe Lovano, Bill Carrothers, Anthony Cox, Chris Morrissey, Mason Jennings, Haley Bonar, Meat Beat Manifesto, Craig Taborn, Matt Mitchell, Matt Maneri, Benoit Delbeq, Craig Green, Jason Moran, Tchad Blake, David Torn, Donna Lewis, Atmosphere, and a few more great people.
I have also worked extensively with The Mark Morris Dance Group and with acclaimed fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi on his fashion week music and t.v. show music.
I have also recorded and composed for film including two films for animated film maker Tom Shroeder and 6 seconds of one of my drum beats is in the film "The Hot Chick" starring SNL icon Rob Schneider believe it or not."

-Dave King Website (

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Track Listing:

1. Advil 4:37

2. Wrangled 3:57

3. Uncomfortable Truths 5:55

4. Despite Obstacles 4:18

5. Sunset Park In July 5:35

6. In The Wild 4:08

7. Lone Satellite 4:33

8. Amos 4:50

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Melodic and Lyrical Jazz
Free Improvisation
Trio Recordings
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
New in Improvised Music
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