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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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SECRET QUARTET

Bloor Street

Edition EDN 1019

 

 


1. Time to Evolve
2. Bloor Street
3. Moon Beam
4. Unit Six
5. Make Some Memories
6. Salem House
7. Mojive
8. Changing Tides
9. Ants

Martin Speake - Alto sax
Nikki Iles - Piano
Duncan Hopkins - Double bass
Anthony Michelli - Drums

 

Given the long-standing cultural ties between Britain and Canada, it should come as no surprise that the album Bloor Street is a collaboration between well-known British and Canadian jazz musicians. For those listeners who may be unfamiliar with this group, and that is quite likely since they do not perform concert dates, the British musicians are the assertive improviser Martin Speake on alto along with the emotive Nikki Iles at the piano. The Canadian duo is comprised of the swinging Toronto bassist Duncan Hopkins and empathetic drummer Anthony Michelli. This much- anticipated disc is a follow-up to their 2002 group effort entitled Secret.

The nine tunes on the disc are all originals by members of the band and, although their meetings are rare, one can still sense the bond amongst the musicians. Opening the disc is Speake's Time to Evolve, a measured number with the two British band members leading the way, offering the necessary colouring. Next up is the title track Bloor Street, another Speake original which musically describes the Toronto thoroughfare after which it is named. This is a colourful amalgam of sights and sounds that is perfectly executed by Iles' piano solo with muscular support from Hopkins and Michelli.

As the disc spins along, Iles offers two of her compositions, Moon Beam and Unit Six, with the latter being a bop-infused amusement showcasing Speake's inventive alto with Hopkins driving bass also an element. Moon Beam is a more delicate tune that showcases Iles' expressive piano style. Of the remaining compositions, two of Hopkins' efforts deserve mention. Mojive, which had been previously recorded by Hopkins on his Red And Brassy album, has that impetuousness that often appears in his writing and provides ample solo space for Speake to indulge in his Lee Konitz influence. Iles also delivers an unrestrained solo. On Changing Tides we find Hopkins in an introspective mood and the most prominent player on this cut, although Speake`s cool tone again cannot be denied.

Finally, if Secret Quartet does not wish to be "secret" anymore, they need to climb on the jazz festival bus to promote themselves. This is an interesting group and deserves more recognition. However, as good as they are, in today's fragmented and cluttered musical world, jazz reviews and word of mouth are simply not going to do the trick.

Pierre Giroux



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