Chirs Speed’s Yeah-No Quartet

New York reedist and composer Chris Speed–a veteran of groups led by Tim Berne, Myra Melford, and Dave Douglas, among others–has a voracious musical appetite, and with his own quartet he likes to feast on all of his favorite things at once. Genre blending is part and parcel of jazz, but Speed’s excellent group–trumpeter Cuong Vu, electric bassist Skuli Sverrisson, and drummer Jim Black–still manages to push the envelope, nailing audacious ideas that most musicians couldn’t even conceive. The first song on last year’s Deviantics (Songlines) is called “Pith Remix,” and the title isn’t the tune’s only nod to electronic dance music: throughout the piece Black mimics the hyperactive beats of drum ‘n’ bass, playing live what an artist like Squarepusher meticulously programs on a computer–only with greater variation. Weaving through Sverrisson’s simple ascending and descending six-note bass line, he establishes a wildly kinetic groove over which Speed and Vu fire off tireless lines with staggering rhythmic and melodic agility. Other horn players–Ben Neill, Tim Hagans, Graham Haynes–have experimented more explicitly with electronic music, but Speed’s organic, integrated approach is far more convincing. On Sverrisson’s tune “Tulip” the group shifts gears to paint a delicate ambient soundscape: Vu and Speed sketch lovely legato passages that morph as they overlap, while Black provides a shifting murmur of bells, bowed cymbals, and soft brushwork and Sverrisson taps out subtle harmonic waves. Black, Speed, and Sverrisson also play with guitarist Brad Shepik in the Balkan-flavored combo Pachora–whose fine new album, Ast (Knitting Factory Works), highlights the sweet fluidity of Speed’s clarinet playing–and other tunes on Deviantics have an exotic feel. But in Speed’s group the pretty textures are secondary to the keen interplay between himself and Vu–one of the most exciting young trumpeters working today. Wednesday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.