Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Speak, strong with the boldness that comes of youth, are unapologetic from the start. Opener Amalgam in the Middle is a stylistic manifesto, displaying straight away their signature recipe of unrepentant noise, chromatic prog- and post-rock quotations, free-jazz detours and an emotional urgency that is likely to rock your boat throughout... Jazz is the catalyst for the action and its openness allows all the quoted genres to make sense of each other in an original fusion – banking on the terrific musicianship of all involved. Speak is a rocket ride of outstanding quality." -BBC
Personnel: Andrew Swanson (saxophone); Cuong Vu (trumpet); Aaron Otheim (keyboards); Chris Icasiano (drums).
Recording information: Die Alone Studios, Ellensburg and Seattle, WA (08/27/2009-08/30/2009).
The quintet Speak build their music strongly around the motives of collective improvisation, a hallmark of traditional jazz. They do this, however, with the stated intent of challenging traditional jazz ideas. The resulting music is an odd beast. With a love for distortion effects and massive noises, the album opens with a brief Brubeck-like intro (courtesy of pianist Aaron Otheim), then quickly builds into a crashing set of instruments, and morphs back to a ponderous, epic composition. There are glorious pieces of post-bop jazz displayed in pieces like "Polypockets," with Otheim pumping out incredible backdrops while saxophonist Andrew Swanson warbles over them. Even within the same composition, though, they deconstruct the music into baser portions, ending with crashing piano and drums, wailing and cacophonous sax riffs, and a trumpet (courtesy of Cuong Vu) in full-fledged screech. That movement from order into chaos (and occasionally the reverse) is the hallmark of this debut album. There is outstanding music to be heard, displaying some of the best in performance abilities among the group. There is also drastically altered, tampered music to be heard, displaying not the ability of the musicians to play their instruments so much as their abilities in improvisation and deconstruction. ~ Adam Greenberg