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Human Feel — Speak to It
(Bandcamp Songlines SGL 1514-2, 1996/2021, DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2022-03-07

Speak to It Cover art

This outstanding alternative jazz quartet released four albums between 1989 and 1996, of which Speak to It Was the fourth. They disbanded for a period and have regrouped again a couple times in the years since, their most recent reunion resulting in the 2019 album Gold. The group at this point (1996) consisted of guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, drummer Jim Black, Chris Speed on tenor sax and clarinet, and Andrew D’Angelo on alto sax and bass clarinet; there is no bassist (although their first two albums featured a bassist), but with all the woodwind power, including bass clarinet, one might not even realize it. Speak to It has a considerable amount of edge, channeling elements of free jazz, rock, chamber, one might even say punk, and many of the pieces are fiercely aggressive, always delivering something unexpected, often seemingly pulling in different directions. The composition duties are split evenly between Speed, D’Angelo, and Black, and there's also a Mal Waldron / Billie Holiday cover of “Left Alone,” where guest singer Holly Palmer joins the group. Opener “Darker Joys,” a Speed composition, delivers a good dose of honking winds, with Black’s manic drumming tying it all together, with Rosenwinkel seeming to get buried in the chaos. Black’s title track follows, proceeding at a softer, gentler pace, the woodwinds creating beautiful melodic cross-patterns, as the piece builds slowly to its seven minute conclusion. D’Angelo’s “Spaze” is next, starting as a crunchy, heavy rock-informed piece that frequently drops into a chamber-jazz mode throughout its thirteen-minute duration, other times going totally off the deep end, but it stands as one of the most interesting compositions on the album. And so it goes, the three composers taking turns presenting their material. Apparently Speed discovered the original quarter-inch mixes (previously thought to be lost) while cleaning out his Brooklyn apartment, and that discovery is the genesis of this reissue, the sound being stunningly detailed. For now, it’s available as download-only, no idea what future plans may be.

Filed under: Reissues, 2021 releases, 1996 recordings

Related artist(s): Human Feel, Jim Black

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