Martin Speake

With the ECM release of his new album, Change of Heart, altoist Martin Speake jumps categories from “man most likely” to “ascending star”. It’s one of those records that has the capacity to define a career. With a dream band of Paul Motian on drums, Bobo Stenson on piano and Mick Hutton on bass, it’s also the fruition of a long-term dream that began 14 years ago. Interview: Duncan Heining Martin Speake“You could go right back to the thing of wanting to play with Paul Motian, which happened in about 1992. I had been listening a lot to him with his own bands and with Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. I really identify with him conceptionally, with his playing and his tunes.” In 1992, Martin was established on the UK scene but wasn’t an international name. How he came to play with Motian and Stenson is the kind of story to have nay-sayers grumbling into their beer. Before his first album, In Our Time, had been released, Martin had contacted Motian hoping they might work together. “I sent him a tape of In Our Time to New York with a letter saying, ‘I really like your playing. If I get some gigs over here, would you be interested in a project?’ When I rang him up, he said: ‘Great. This is my fee. I’d be up for doing it.’ So, I fixed up a week of gigs with John Parricelli and Mick Hutton. We played the old Jazz Café and some other gigs. I was doing some teaching at the Royal Academy and he came in and played there as well.” It took seven years to do it again. Early in 2000, Martin approached Bobo Stenson at a Pizza Express gig. “I said: ‘You don’t know me but I want to get this project together with Mick and Paul.’ Of course, he didn’t know me or Mick but he knew Paul, although he’d never played with him. So, that was his way in – he wanted to play with Paul.”

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