Chris Speed Trio Iffy

It's apparent from the first few notes of this disc that it's not an ECM release. This is no exercise in Nordic clarity; it's got the funk. It's not breakbeat funk, rather it's the warm, smoky vibe of Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff, as recorded during the heyday of Rudy Van Gelder, Blue Note's engineer from the '50s to the '70s. The first tune, "A Little Odd," captures the organ-grinding groove of those two masters, with Speed's Sidney Bechet homage dancing on top of the rhythm. After that, things get crankier and the trio sounds more like Tony Williams' early Lifetime, if a clarinettist had led them. Drummer Ben Peretsky is a force in rhythm and melody and the thick snare/kick balance achieved in the recording maximises his contribution. There are few examples of good-sounding synths in jazz recordings, but Jamie Saft's approach to synth as a bass frequency generator works. His synth notions are similar in function to his pulsing bass pedals on the organ. Speed is fluent in noisy effects and in circular, melodic passages on both clarinet and tenor. The standout track is "Gina," a klezmer tune with a whiff of d&b - something like this shouldn't work, but damned if it isn't funky and melancholy all at once. Knitting Factory has a tendency to release albums that are too stiff and brainy for full-bodied enjoyment, so Iffy is a pleasant surprise. If you like Medeski, Martin and Wood, you should check this out. (Knitting Factory)