Recorded live in Kentish Town pub The Oxford in September 2008 saxophonist Martin Speake joined by tuba player Oren Marshall and drummer Mark Sanders, this live album represents the entire first set of the gig on the night of the 22nd and comes not long after the autumn release of the duo album Sound Clouds.
Speake’s label Pumpkin have done a nice job here with the CD tucked inside an additional sleeve crammed in to the pocket in the artwork making the album as an artefact feel a bit more solid without being overly bulky and enhancing the six-panel artwork and its attractive cover design.
Freely improvised The Quiet Mind doesn’t sound like throw-the-kitchen-sink-at-it improv and actually begins in contemplative fashion, the quotations in the sleeve from “degrowth activist” Charles Eisenstein setting the mood in an extract from his 2011 book Sacred Economics beginning: “The things we need most are the things we have become most afraid of, such as adventure, intimacy, and authentic communication.” That intimacy Eisenstein says we’re afraid of is present certainly as the album’s contemplative mood suffuses ‘Your Sweet Melody’ Sanders and Marshall developing independent improvising lines in addition to the Lee Konitz-like Speake’s alto sax scalar explorations. And certainly you feel all three are listening hard to each other, the tuba’s tonalities unusual of course but in no way jarring: reed, brass, and drums knitting well. The first track becomes incredibly quiet at certain points – even the far from raucous audience applause interspersing the tunes is respectful – an exercise by the trio in restraint, their instinctive spontaneity spooling out little by little. Second tune ‘Tears in Her Eyes’ like all three of the pieces owes its title to a note of appreciation written both in English and French left by two women who had been part of the audience sufficiently moved to sign it “une spectatrice qui a eu les larmes aux yeux.” Each piece might be a little too long and occasionally loses a sense of direction particularly the more desultory ‘First Time But Not The Last’ for complete satisfaction but there’s still plenty to savour here.
Released on 26 January