Former students of the jazz program at Washington University, Seattle, electric bassist Luke Bergman, drummer Chris Icasiano, keyboardist Aaron Otheim and saxophonist Andrew Swanson have clearly benefitted from the guiding hand of their professor, Cuong Vu, who guests on this fine debut recording, where the playing is as impressive as it is kaleidoscopic in range. All five musicians were brought up on rock and these leanings inform the music to a large degree, though collective improvisation lies at the heart of the group voice.
A random shuffle through the six tracks would raise more questions than answers; at times Speak sounds like a modern jazz piano trio in the vein of Neil Cowley's trio, or a progressive rock band with howling brass, an alternative rock band, Death Metal, or a Noise experimental outfit. The closer listening that the music merits reveals collective song-writing of maturity and some imagination. There's also virtuosity aplenty to enjoy.
Speak is in complete control of its environment, yet is prepared to take risks. Constantly engaging, Speak is a powerful advertisement for what is possible when egos are suspended, and at the same time, serves as a rallying cry for rock and improvised music. Expect to hear a lot more of this band.