A digital format piano and alto saxophone duo album recorded at Trinity Laban in south east London towards the end of 2016 is on release. ‘Majolica’ is a taut beginning grounded by Maguire’s very abstract sense of harmony. The pianist begins ‘Smooth Your Feathers’ in a more gentle, ruminative and balladic way: Martin Speake typically Konitz and Ornette Coleman-like in the sense not necessarily of timbre but in the jagged overlapping saxophone lines he creates.
‘Just One Look’ continues the conversational approach while ‘Prana’ is more celebratory, a fanfare from Speake to begin. Then ‘Mellow Eightpence’ is so quiet at the beginning and a memorable very pretty initial theme is developed straight off: the duo seem to be freest here in the ultimate sense of playing and not thinking... and yet are so lucid and creative.
‘Six Sisters’ again sits in simple melody and goes quiet as if time and silence (often the ultimate desire to achieve in every kind of music making either as means or outcome) are forefront in the mind’s eye.
‘Eau de Nil’ and later ‘Different Roads’ are where the album really gets interesting in terms of the piano lines. The Bley-esque Maguire thrives on the homespun aspect to ‘The Next Stage’ and we are back to the Konitz universe to an extent on ‘Wounded Landscape’ but Speake takes it a step further and this track is a wilderness of bass lines and rampaging bar-vaulting fourths and eighths juggling illusive atonality or tonality in its grandeur.
‘Dottles’ is free improv in the plinky plonky sense should you choose to use that phrase advisedly — I am being as accurate as possible and not pejorative — and as for the final five tracks: where they work best is when they find a simple theme which they often do and ornament it. ‘Armistice Sorry To Be Me’ is superb (‘Green Light’ the only weak track in an album of 16 tracks) and ‘Embrace’ finds Speake — think beyond style in a Britjazz timeline of alto sax icons: John Dankworth; Joe Harriott; Speake; Soweto Kinch — at his epic best. SG