“Speed’s mix of lightly jumpy clarinet and throaty tenor sax, Cuong Vu’s midrange trumpet girth, and the incredibly deep anchoring of bassist Skuli Sverrisson and drummer Jim Black make Emit a fascinating document. The band steams with so much energy that they seem a band destined for a dance club (look out, fans of Nils Petter Molvaer, here’s an all-acoustic, Ornette-leaning unit to dig), and they then head into noir-tinged environs of slow, rumbly bass and fluid horns hinting of a big, brawny secret in the universe. Emit brings Speed’s advanced sense of melody in jazzy contexts to the fore, presenting a full-bore compositional and improvisational talent that deserves much wider recognition.”
—Andrew Bartlett, Amazon.com
Chris Speed’s third release for Songlines with his band Yeah No features sweet/astringent offbeat grooves and evocative soundscapes from one of New York’s most finely attuned working units. On Emit, the density and harmonic complexity of the improvising contrasts with the simplicity of the compositional material. Black’s drumming, hopping from power beats to arachnid antics, combined with Sverrisson’s elegantly harsh landscapes and sinuous sub-lows, energize Speed and Vu’s bold and enthusiastic explorations. The music was developed on tour during March 2000, and recorded live to two-track by Jim Anderson at Avatar, NYC. Speed writes: “With all the musical ideas available, including my girlfriend’s record collection of art rock, my challenge is too make a cohesive statement utilizing the tools available to me, acoustic instruments (well, besides Skuli), and composition vs. improvisations. There is still the signature collective/democratic approach to the improvisations found in all our work, though I took a more personal journey with the tunes, or the compositional material, a more traditional approach with the songs and forms. The challenge was in the organizing of the elements, a constant shuffling and reshuffling of the written and the improvising. I set out to create specific zones for us to improvise in, a certain palette or color that was unique to the compositional material as well, so that in each song the improvising retains a unique and personal sound, and a special relationship to the melodic composed material. “Songs like ‘Kosmia’ and ‘Transporter’ were inspired by pop music, then deranged with open ‘free’ zones which can take on a another dimension just by writing simple chords. The Bulgarian women are always an influence, my introduction to ‘Balkan’ music, and ‘Tralala’ ended up reminding me of their flowing romantically melodic and beautifully dissonant wash; asking Jim to only play the melodica filled out the harmonies and added some necessary tonal rubs. The way Julius Hemphill explored all those wacky grooves with a blues-based feeling was the inspiration for ‘Beranche’. I set to explore that with a more traditional Macedonian groove in alternating 7/8 and 5/8 (a berançe is an Eastern European dance that can take various metric forms), which ended up as a grungy-dirge freakout and ‘Eddie Cano’s rhythmically challenged nemesis. ‘Tangents’ is a more personal version of a compositional approach explored predominately on Yeah No, a car-crash of cut-and-paste jazz phrases, improvised ambient bass and swinging drums. I love swing feels without walking bass, and Skuli kills this, as well as the more hittin’ ‘Sugestible’, a union of the odd time meters from eastern Europe and the drum’n’bass grooves that Jim plays so deftly. And ‘Kompa’, which explores the merge of Balkan folk dance, Haitian groove and jazz improvisation, lands in here somewhere as well; though I can’t play as fast as Ferus Mustafov, I do want to dance. ‘Constance and Georgia’ was a tune that I wrote on Casio, that didn’t make the cut at first, and subsequently only was recorded on the band’s insistence, and I’m glad they did (insist), the composer doesn’t always know best.”
“Chris Speed has become a very skilled composer and bandleader. Speed shows his versatility with freedom and composition throughout. His Middle Eastern and klezmer influences in rhythm and harmony makes the complex time signatures sound fluid. Most tunes contain placid sections, which highlights the textural abilities of each band member…Drummer Jim Black plays with a stuttering technique that injects funk into every time signature. Emit once again demonstrates Speed’s ability to make uncompromisingly adventurous ideas sound highly accessible.” — Craig Daniels, Exclaim!