Egotism, I like to believe, is not a particular problem with jazz musicians. Like all creative people, they need to believe in themselves, and there has always been a fairly healthy competitive spirit at play, but overall, jazz players in the era since cutting contests have dropped from fashion appear generous and appreciative of the skills of others.
Which is why saxophonist Martin Speake won’t mind if many of those drawn to his quartet’s concerts in Birmingham and Coventry this weekend have been attracted there by the group’s pianist.
That pianist is Bobo Stenson, Swedish linchpin of many an ECM label band down the years, including lengthy stints with Jan Garbarek, Tomasz Stanko and Charles Lloyd. His own Trio recordings have been similarly lauded, and the latest, Cantando, appeared in many best of the year lists.
But, what about his leader at these concerts? Speake has the enviable title of saxophone professor of at the Royal Academy of Music, and first became known as one of the four saxophonists that comprised Itchy Fingers.
He has been compared in sound with Lee Konitz, but identifies Ornette Coleman as his chief influence. This combination makes for an intriguing mix of cool angularity and melodic lyricism.
Steve Watts is on bass and Jeff Williams (whom I last heard playing with Lee Konitz) is on drums.
The Martin Speake Quartet plays at the CBSO Centre from 8pm this evening, courtesy of Birmingham Jazz, tickets £13 (£9 for members and concessions) on the door, and at the Warwick Arts Centre from 7.45pm tomorrow, promoted by Jazz Coventry, tickets £12 and £10 from 024 7652 4524 or here.