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                Martin Speake 

                               (August 2013)






Appearances at SoundCellar -

The Martin Speake Trio (with Mike Outram and Jeff Williams) - 8th November 2012


Question 1 - What made you want to become a musician? 

I left school at 16 not knowing what to do and got an office job in motor insurance. This was probably the main reason i play music as i worked there for nearly a year and was depressed the whole time realising there must be more to life than this.


Question 2 - What was your practice routine when you decided to get serious about playing jazz?

Long notes, scales, transcription of solos, tunes, phrases and playing them in all keys. Use of the metronome. Very slow practice with metronome on crotchet = 40. Listening to as much as possible. Practicing major and minor turnarounds, major and minor blues, Cherokee and other standards in all keys. Chord tone soloing, insertion of vocabulary throughout tunes.


Question 3 – What advice can you give to other musicians to get the most from their practice routine?

Don't try and do lots of things at once. Have a clear idea what you are trying to achieve in a practice session.  Practice is not playing. It is about getting the mechanics of the music together so that then you can play with others. The same as learning a foreign language so you can converse fluently in the moment.


Question 4 - Can you recommend some books that helped you with your studies?

I bought many books when I first started playing and play alongs but feel none of these were useful with hindsight. All the information we need to play is on recordings. It is important to be curious and work out what is going on music that we like from recordings to inform our own playing. However in more recent years there have been good books that have been helpful such as  Thinking In Jazz-Paul Berliner and How To Improvise-Hal Crook.


Question 5 - Which recording, either as a leader or a sideman, do you think is the best example of your playing?

My latest cd Always A First Time (Pumpkin Records)


Question 6 - Do you have a standard procedure for your compositional process? 

Not really apart from sometimes having parameters when I compose such as deciding I will write a tune in a certain key or that I need a one chord rubato melody or a groove tune with a bass line.


Question 7 - What qualities do you look for in your collaborators?

Open minded, courageous improvisers who can lead, make things happen in the music and not just follow, bringing their own personality and sound to the music. They need to be better musicians than me! Always play with people better than yourself if possible.


Question 8 - Name some of your favourite standards and tell me why you like them.

This varies depending what I am listening to as I am always discovering ones I don't know. Sometimes because of the words and how they resonate with me at different times in my life and what I am going through. Other times I won't know the words and the melody will have a certain poignancy, possibly because of the intervals and tap into something deep within me. If I Loved You and Where Are You? I play in my trio. Never Let Me Go, In Love In Vain, The Folks Who Live on The Hill, I Loves You Porgy. There are so many and Paul Motian's versions of standards always seem to mean a lot to me.


Question 9 – What are some of your desert island discs?  

Keith Jarrett(Facing You). Charlie Parker( Complete Dial and Savoy Recordings). Jim Hall Trio with Tom Harrell (These Rooms). Ornette Coleman (Science Fiction). Ravel Piano concerto in G Major played by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. Paul Motian (You Took The Words Right Out of My Heart) John Coltrane (Crescent).   Marvin Gaye (What's Going On). James Taylor (October Road). Bobo Stenson(Reflections). L. Subramaniam (Le Violon de l'Inde du Sud). Lee Konitz (Live At The Half Note). Steve Coleman (The Tao Of Mad Phat).


Question 10 - What music are you listening to at the moment? 

Oliver Nelson-Straight Ahead, Screamin' The Blues, Blues And the Abstract Truth. Dexter Gordon-Daddy Plays The Horn. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong -Ella and Louis. Elvin Jones-Elvin.


Question 11 - What motivates you to focus on creative music? 

Trying to be myself and be with my natural expression as all around us we are told to not be ourselves.


Question 12 – Tell me about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve played?

Playing with Paul Motian, Bobo Stenson and Mick Hutton in 2000 when we toured for 2 weeks. My quartet tour in 2005 with Dave Wickins, Mike Outram and Simon Thorpe playing Charlie Parker music throughout the country. Rural Arts Duo tours with Colin Oxley playing standards in village halls to wonderful listening non judgmental audiences.


Question 13 - Tell me about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve been to?

Paul Motian Trio at the Jazz Cafe. Keith Jarrett solo at the RFH. James Taylor at Wembley. Led Zeppelin in 1971 at Wembley. Pink Floyd at Earls Court in 1973. Stevie Wonder at the Rainbow Theatre 1974. Brotherhood of Breath, Mike Osborne Trio, Stan Tracey Quartet and Octet all at the 100 Club. Lots more.....


Question 14 – Tell me about your current equipment set up?

Selmer Mk6 Alto saxophone serial number 201691. Otto link 6 star slant signature ebonite mouthpiece. Rico Jazz Select 3S Unfiled reeds.


Question 15 – Tell me about some musicians you think people should check out?

Geoff Simkins is one of the greatest pure improvisers in this country and of course there is no hype or publicity machine behind him and he plays standards so is not going to be on the front page of Jazzwise or on Jazz on 3. His integrity and commitment to the melodic line and voice leading is deep. Mike Outram and Jeff Williams. Pianists Barry Green, Kit Downes and Liam Noble, Tenor player Pete Hurt, trumpeter Dick Pearce, guitarists Phil Robson and Colin Oxley, trumpeter Chris Batchelor, trombonist Malcolm Earle Smith who loves all the music but has deep knowledge of early jazz. My favourite singer is Brian Abrahams who now lives in Australia lot of the time and is from South Africa but lived here for a number of years and alos plays great drums.  Pianist and composer Pete Saberton was one of the most original musicians to come out of this country but he was also another one who I consider a pure artist like Geoff Simkins and had no interest in fashion or trying to look right or sound right for the jazz media. From the younger players who are beginning to develop there own voices-pianists Elliott Galvin, Matt Robinson, bassists Chris Hyson, Conor Chaplin, guitar player Nick Costley-White, drummer Corrie Dick.


Question 16 - What's your favourite cultural pursuit other than music?

Films. I am also a qualified nutritional therapist and am really pleased when I can help people with their health problems through diet and lifestyle changes rather than the drug based approach that only deals with symptoms and not the causes of imbalance.


Question 17 - What do you think of the state of jazz in the UK?

Great musicians with not enough exposure. Jazz being on TV regularly would change everything.


Question 18 - Have you got any tips for jazz promoters?

Return phone calls. This doesn't apply to most but there are a handful who are notorious at not responding.


Question 19 - What was the last thing you heard that got you excited?

Classical Pianist Douglas Finch who was head of piano at Trinity Laban and still teaches there. He is an incredible improviser but his vocabulary is not from jazz but from J.S. Bach, Shostakovich, Iannis Xenakis and Morton Feldman to mention a few influences, so it is really exciting to here what he comes up with in the moment.


Question 20 – Have you got anything you'd like to promote?

My trio tour in September and October this year and album Always A First Time.