July 23rd, 2014
LAst month Earshot Jazz presented in concert Human Feel at the Seattle Art Museum. This collective, after its start in Boston, in the 1990s became a quintessential representative of new directions in New York area jazz. Andrew D’Angelo (alto sax, bass clarinet), Chris Speed (tenor sax, clarinet), Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar), and Jim Black (drums) played sparkling, angled jazz with jazz-rock energy, improvisers’ intuition, and contemporary chamber music chops.
It has always commanded the attention and affection of Seattle jazz fans because Black, D’Angelo, and Speed all ventured East from Seattle. They are certainly among our city’s finest musical exports. During the last 20 years, they and the band’s fourth stellar member, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, have been present at, if not generative of, some of the major turns in modern jazz – sometimes referred to as the “Downtown Jazz Scene,” perhaps misleadingly, particularly now that the band is very much ensconced in Brooklyn. The quartet’s mid-90s recordings, Welcome to Malpesta in 1994 and Speak to It in 1996, gained attention and wrought influence at the same time as the members of the quartet all branched out into other highly considered outfits. Speed and Black began long tenures with Tim Berne’s Bloodcount and two of Dave Douglas’s numerous. They performed together in Pachora, Speed’s yeah NO quartet, and Black’s AlasNoAxis quartet. Black played with Ellery Eskelin’s trio and with Laurie Anderson, while D’Angelo joined Matt Wilson’s quartet and Rosenwinkel landed an enviable contract with Verve. Still, as Human Feel they remained a touchstone of small-group collaboration, and their approaches influenced rising jazz experimenters the world over.
In its latest orbit, says Black, the band is intent on “balancing lyricism, aggression, order, and chaos, discipline and anarchy.” A new album, Human Feel’s sixth, is expected soon from Skirl Records.