October 17th, 2011
Since meeting in Seattle high schools in the late 80s, Chris Speed (sax) and Jim Black (drums) have deeply affected jazz. Joined here by Oscar Noriega (bass clarinet) and Trevor Dunn (bass), they played a wonderful and engaging set.
Tenor saxophonist Chris Speed and drummer Jim Black met while high-school students in Seattle, left for the East Coast, and have become two highly influential players and composers in New York City’s heady mix of recombinations of jazz.
Their Endangered Blood, originally formed in 2008 for a benefit concert for their ill friend and band mate, saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo, another Seattle transplant to New York, combines the tried and trusted with a dash of the new. Steeped in tradition, their quartet also urges the art form ahead, with the muscle power and hearty stew of imagination necessary to find fresh veins in a genre now well over 100 years in development. That, thanks to the monster bassist Trevor Dunn and alto saxophonist and bass clarinetist Oscar Noriega.
Various members of Endangered Blood have fueled the creative fire in bands like Alas No Axis, Human Feel, Yeah No, and Electric Masada, to name just a few core drivers of innovation in New York over the last decade or two.
Speed (Pachora, Claudia Quintet) and Black have worked together in not only their own bands but also in stand-out projects like Uri Caine’s ensembles and Tim Berne’s Bloodcount.
As for Trevor Dunn, he is certainly among the leading bassists of his generation, as attested by his stints with the legendary West Coast avant-rock bands Mr. Bungle and Fantomas, and projects with musical polymath John Zorn and vocal contortionist Mike Patton.
Oscar Noriega’s association with Speed and Black goes back 20 years in New York jazz circles. A measure of his standing has been his longtime collaborations with pianist Satoko Fujii and his recent work with Paul Motian, Lee Konitz, and Tim Berne’s new quartet, Los Totopos.
Together, Endangered Blood explores jazz from its New Orleans roots, through mid-century innovations from the likes of Thelonious Monk, to its beckoning future. Along the way, it slows to pick up some great musical developments from Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
In the New York Times, Ben Ratliff wrote earlier this year that Endangered Blood exemplifies 1990s “new jazz” after it has moved on from “intense polyphony, liturgical melodies, and the clank: drummers playing roughed-up rhythm, rushing time and forestalling your pleasure, vexing you on purpose.” He believes that Endangered Blood has come, instead, to a place that is “less jagged and self-consciously transgressive, more studied and self-possessed. It’s gone deeper into harmony and odd or changing meters; it’s more exact in every way.”
In All About Jazz, Mark Corroto agreed: “Endangered Blood signals a sort of watershed in the evolution of creative music that was once called jazz. The dust has cleared, and what’s left is an idiosyncratic and very entertaining sound.”
In East Bay Express, Neal Clevenger chimed in: “If rangy counterpoint and bracing metric destabilization are the order of the day, Endangered Blood also shows little interest in throwing out the jazz baby with the bath water: Forms, heads, and solos abound.”
“This project deserves attention from jazz fans of every stripe,” wrote Chris Barton of the LA Times.
– Peter Monaghan