The Intimacy of Jazz
Two of Britain’s finest jazz musicians, alto saxophonist Martin Speake and guitarist Colin Oxley perform the music composed or associated with Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Lee Konitz, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Kenny Wheeler, Ornette Coleman and others. Alongside these compositions by the greatest innovators will be versions of songs by some of the influential songwriters of the 20th century such as Jimmy Van Heusen, Cole Porter, Johnny Green, Irving Berlin, Victor Young and Antonio Carlos Jobim.
The intimacy of the duo allows for close improvised interplay that is melodic, lyrical and infused with a harmonic richness. The result is a performance of unique, personal interpretations of some of the greatest music in the jazz repertoire.
Martin Speake also leads many other projects including a trio with Mike Outram and Jeff Williams exploring original music, improvised music with Mark Sanders and Oren Marshall and Indian/Arabic inspired music in the seven piece Fever Pitch. He has collaborated with Paul Motian, Bobo Stenson, Stan Tracey, Nikki Iles, Itchy Fingers, Bob Wilber, Don Weller, Loose Tubes, Bryan Spring, Billy Jenkins, Michael Moore, Conrad Herwig, Jim Mullen and Clark Tracey.
Colin Oxley draws on a vast experience of musical settings which includes being featured with Stacey Kent, Scott Hamilton, Michael Garrick, Colin Purbrook, Dave Cliff, Warren Vache and the John Wilson Orchestra.
'Two Not One' (Pumpkin Records) features saxophonist Martin Speake and guitarist Colin Oxley in an intimate duo setting exploring well known standards, a Lester Young blues and three original tunes. The selection, including classics such as 'Skylark', 'For Heaven's Sake' and 'The Nearness of You', alongside original compositions such as Speake/Oxley's ''Coleman Hawkins' indicates a deep rooting in the jazz tradition and the performance illustrates the depth of knowledge of the tradition and it's language held by both improvisers. Martin Speake is on fine form, displaying a characteristic lyricism, beauty of tone and imaginative melodic construction. Colin Oxley's interplay is exquisite, offering supportive harmonic textures and subtle rhythmic nudges and soloing with a masterful turn of phrase and thematic invention.
TWO NOT ONE PRESS REVIEWS
"Alto saxophonist Martin Speake releases such a diverse range of music (in recent years, including an Indo-jazz collaboration, a Charlie Parker tribute, and a free improvisation duo) that any new recording must be considered a new piece in the jigsaw that is his discography. Recorded in October 2010, Two Not One is a duo pairing Speake with guitarist Colin Oxley on a programme of 10 standards and three original compositions.
The duo format allows both players scope to display their skills without getting in each other’s way, but it also means each of them is constantly exposed to scrutiny – there is no hiding place in a duo. Speake makes full use of the space, smoothly moving from songs’ themes into free-flowing solos that forensically explore and expand upon those themes. Without a rhythm section, Oxley’s subtle guitar is just as vital to the duo’s success, keeping rhythm and acting as a harmony instrument as well as contributing the occasional solo break, notably on the intro to the original Happy.
Throughout, Speake’s tone is warm, pure and true, making it evident why he has attracted comparisons with Lee Konitz, the legendary alto saxophonist who himself straddles genres as Speake does. As if to acknowledge those comparisons, Two Not One opens and closes with compositions by Konitz’s mentor, pianist Lennie Tristano, each of which provides Speake with ample opportunities to showcase his abilities as a soloist.
On the other standards, the duo range across a variety of jazz styles, from the traditional favourite I Found a New Baby through the Latin-tinged Besame Mucho to Lester Young’s Lester’s Blues. Along the way, they clearly relish such classic melodies as Skylark, Our Love is Here to Stay and The Nearness of You.
Alongside such fine compositions, the duo’s three originals easily fit in. Their piece entitled Coleman Hawkins is particularly noteworthy, allowing Speake to summon up the spirit of the great saxophonist of its title. Whatever the music, Speake and Oxley play with a flawless sense of logic, constructing phrases that are easy on the ear, but they never once drift into easy listening or smooth jazz territories."
John Eyles, BBC Review
"Martin Speake's alto saxophone tone is such a beautiful thing in itself, pure and limpid, that it would be possible to float off on it without noticing what he was actually playing. This would be a pity, because his improvised lines are full of ideas and unemphatic elegance. Colin Oxley, best known for his long tenure as Stacey Kent's guitarist, makes the best possible partner, providing rich, subtle harmonies and discreet but firm rhythmic support. Outstanding in a mixed programme of originals and well-chosen standards is a marvellous two-part invention on a blues by Lester Young."
Dave Gelly The Observer
"Colin Oxley’s thoughtful guitar provides delightful settings for the aerated, imaginative alto sax of Martin Speake. The sparse soundscape focuses attention on Speake’s witty lines as he weaves through an agreeable set of warhorses (Besame Mucho, I Found A New Baby), variations on established sequences (Coleman Hawkins, I’ll Never Forget You) and tricky Lennie Tristano tunes."
Chris Ingham, Mojo
COLIN OXLEY: PRESS QUOTES
Colin Oxley’s guitar is dazzling and deliciously melodic.
Steve Ruby, 606 Club
Colin is recognized as a world class player and one of the finest guitarists ever to come from the U.K.
...A burning solo from Oxley that, like the wistfully laconic backing he provided elsewhere in the set, was reminiscent of Billie Holliday’s sometime guitarist Barney Kessel.
CD Baby (review of Mark Crooks CD) Mark’s CD features the brilliant guitar playing of Colin Oxley
I listen again to Colin Oxley’s guitar, responding with both masterly chording and joyful single notes to every mood.
Dusty Groove America (review of Steve Fishwick CD) Colin Oxley plays guitar on the date and his talents definItely make the record sparkle.
MARTIN SPEAKE PRESS QUOTES
“Speake is a strikingly talented improviser with a seemingly bottomless well of inspiration.” - Encyclopedia of Popular Music
“An alto saxophonist who sounds only like himself.”
Dave Gelly - The Observer
“A saxophonist with an unusual turn of phrase, a persuasively gentle sound and jazz allegiances that don’t follow the usual Coltranesque paths but veer instead toward the fifties Cool School, Martin Speake is not just a distinctive improviser but a striking composer too. Superficially, Speake can sometimes seem cool to the point of chilliness - but like his original inspirations, the heat is all in the logic and integrity of the lines, the balance of mind and heart.” John Fordham - The Guardian
“One of the most original and interesting contemporary jazz saxophonists on the British scene. Speake has an offbeat melodic sense, a fine gentle tone and a strong technique.”
Linton Chiswick - Time Out
”Think of Chet Baker, Lee Konitz, Jimmy Giuffre, or our own Bobby Wellins, Tony Coe or Martin Speake - all Emily Dickinson lyric poets.”
Phil Johnson - The Independent
”Speake’s saxophone sound is a haunting mixture of fragile, silvery high-register playing and a plush, flugelhorn-like mid-range, and his momentum has an unswerving resolution of tempo. In these respects he resembles a Fifties Cool School improviser, but his phrasing represents a far more contemporary chemistry of long zigzagging lines and unexpected resolutions.”
John Fordham - The Guardian
Duet with Colin Oxley