Quietly, and without fuss or hyperbole, Chris Speed has been acquiring that certain kind of kudos that meets the standards of musicians and audiences at their most exacting. An originator of the fabled downtown scene, he’s a player who embodies its uncompromising work ethic, a singular path that requires a zeal for creativity and an acute sense of aesthetics combined with an instinct for survival and self-belief.
A native of Seattle, his music is borne of a lengthy apprenticeship in the crucible that is Manhattan and its ever changing soundtrack. Since 1997, Yeah No has been the conduit for his considerable gifts as saxophonist, clarinettist, bandleader and composer. 03’s Emit, the group’s third release for the adventurous Songlines imprint, further refines Yeah No’s unique syntax of stylistic eclecticism and improvised dialogue. The influence of The Balkans, with its dense rhythms and fruity dissonance, is ever present, but primarily this is the sound of NYC, a city where bebop jostles for space with free jazz, electronica, grunge and more. Its all here. Speed’s compositions, by turns gentle and abrasive, make this risky endeavour coherent, and are a document in themselves of the city’s cultural tolerance and open mind.
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The Wire““With jazz coordinates that extend back to bebop, but also allude comfortably to a variety of folk traditions, this is deep and sophisticated music. ”