Alto saxophonist Martin Speake calls this the Change of Heart Quartet, after the album he made seven years ago with pianist Bobo Stenson and a different rhythm team.
Could this be jazz’s odd couple?
Speake has the Jack Lemmon tendencies – his playing is particular, precise and tidy.
It is also strongly academic. If you didn’t know he was saxophone professor at the Royal Academy, you could easily guess it.
Stenson leans towards Walter Matthau - more expansive, less neat, both in his playing and his body language.
He builds solos with a relish to explore every nook and crevice in the particular harmonic and melodic landscape of the tune.
When he hunches forward you can expect a knotty run of slightly smeared phrases down the keyboard; when he stretches back, legs spread, expect a Monkish, crunchy, off-kilter, double-handed chord placed so adroitly you want to laugh.
Most of the material was Speake’s own: Weather Permitting, Lost in Transit, Unrepentant, 15 Years Too Long.
The liveliest moments of the evening came just after the interval. Lennie Tristano’s novel manipulation of the standard Pennies From Heaven, Lennie’s Pennies, brought Speake out of himself in a way his own compositions never quite managed.
Steve Watts on bass and Jeff Williams on drums were solid in support.