Gig Details

Friday 20 April. 20:00 – 22:30.

At Crookes Social Club

Full £15, Concessions £12, Student with NUS card £8, 15 – 18 year olds £3, Under 15s Free. Advance tickets from

Martin Speake: sax; Ethan Iverson piano; Fred Thomas: bass; Martin France: drums

 A great quartet fronted by two of the most original improvisers on either side of the Atlantic. Britain’s Martin Speake revives a partnership with Ethan Iverson (one of New York’s finest and most innovative pianists, best known for his work as a member of Bad Plus) that goes back over a decade. Expect dazzling originality backed by the excellent Fred Thomas on bass and Martin France on drums.


In 1990 alto saxophonist Martin Speake and Ethan Iverson met at Banff Centre for The Arts in Canada where they studied for a month with Steve Coleman, Rufus Reid, Kevin Eubanks, Stanley Cowell, Kenny Wheeler and many others. This began their musical relationship and they kept in touch for a while as Ethan moved to New York and eventually became the musical director/pianist with Mark Morris Dance Company. Since then he has toured with world with the critically acclaimed trio The Bad Plus and recently has recorded with Ron Carter and Lee Konitz amongst others.

They eventually lost touch after Banff and both pursued their separate paths in music, but Martin decided to contact Ethan after a ten year gap and they began playing together again and in 2002 performed as a duo in the UK and Scotland and released the CD My Ideal (Basho Records), a ballad album of standards. Now 15 years later they have recorded a quartet album of Martin’s compositions due for release in 2018. This band also features bassist Fred Thomas and drummer James Maddren. This material will be featured on the tour.


Martin Speake: alto saxophone/composition
Martin’s career began touring the world with award-winning saxophone quartet Itchy Fingers. Then he became established as a composer and improviser, recording 18 CD’s under his own name, including the ECM release Change Of Heart with Paul Motian, Bobo Stenson and Mick Hutton. His own record label Pumpkin Records is soon to release its sixth CD, but his main project is a trio performing original music.

A committed jazz educator, teaching at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Royal Academy of Music and National Youth Jazz Collective Summer School, Martin is as comfortable playing personal interpretations of the music of Charlie Parker with his quartet, free improvising with drummer Mark Sanders, as playing ballads in duet with Ethan Iverson or with Indian musicians Dharambir Singh and Sarvar Sabri.

He has recorded 18 CDs under his own name of diverse projects including the internationally acclaimed ECM release Change Of Heart with Paul Motian, Bobo Stenson and Mick Hutton. Martin has also performed with (among others) Paul Motian, Bobo Stenson, Loose Tubes, Stan Tracey, Bhavani Shankar, Billy Jenkins, Django Bates, Bob Wilber, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, Jim Mullen, Julian Arguelles, and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

‘Martin Speake is one of the most interesting and rewarding alto saxophonists now playing jazz on any continent.’ Thomas Conrad – Jazz Times

“A saxophonist with an unusual turn of phrase, a persuasively gentle sound and jazz allegiances that don’t follow the usual Coltranesque paths but veer instead toward the fifties Cool School, Martin Speake is not just a distinctive improviser but a striking composer too. Superficially, Speake can sometimes seem cool to the point of chilliness – but like his original inspirations, the heat is all in the logic and integrity of the lines, the balance of mind and heart.”

John Fordham – The Guardian   

“An alto saxophonist who sounds only like himself”… Dave Gelly – The Observer

“One of the most original and interesting contemporary jazz saxophonists on the British scene. Speake has an offbeat melodic sense, a fine gentle tone and a strong technique.”…Linton Chiswick – Time Out 


Ethan Iverson: piano

Ethan Iverson’s classically informed writing and playing have similarities to Brad Mehldau. Claiming influences as disparate as Stravinsky and Ornette Coleman, he displayed great potential at a young age and in 1991 he relocated to New York, eventually beginning private studies with Fred Hersch and Sophia Rosoff.

Until the end of 2017, Ethan is one-third of The Bad Plus, a game-changing collective with Reid Anderson and David King. The New York Times called The Bad Plus “…Better than anyone at melding the sensibilities of post-60’s jazz and indie rock.” The Bad Plus has performed in venues as diverse as the Village Vanguard, Carnegie Hall, and Bonnaroo; collaborated with Joshua Redman, Bill Frisell, and the Mark Morris Dance Group; and created a faithful arrangement of Stravinky’s The Rite of Spring and a radical reinvention of Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction.

In addition to The Bad Plus, Ethan participates in the critically-acclaimed Billy Hart quartet with Mark Turner and Ben Street and occasionally performs with an elder statesman like Albert “Tootie” Heath or Ron Carter. Time Out New York selected Iverson as one of 25 essential New York jazz icons: “Perhaps NYC’s most thoughtful and passionate student of jazz tradition—the most admirable sort of artist-scholar.”

In 2013 Ethan took time off from The Bad Plus to play London’s Vortex club with Jeff Williams, and bassist Sam Lasserson. The gig got a 5 star review from John Fordham in The Guardian. Here are some extracts from the review which will give you a flavour of what to expect in this quartet:

 ‘”The theme of the evening is playing tunes at least one of us knows,” was Ethan Iverson’s straightfaced explanation of this impromptu encounter with two local partners… It gave him a chance to exercise enthusiasms usually surplus to such Bad Plus requirements as classic-pop deconstruction, morphed classical music, or free-improv wrestlings with avant-funk. ..he played the daylights out of a programme of jazz standards – exhibiting a hard-driving resourcefulness over long solos to rival some of the world’s best-known postbop practitioners. If the recording equipment had been running, Ethan Iverson Live at the Vortex would already be on its journey to becoming a cult jazz classic….. It was a dazzling exposition by a uniquely idiosyncratic virtuoso-scholar of jazz (and a lot more modern music besides) …’

“Ethan Iverson, best known as a founding member of the Bad Plus, is not only one hell of a pianist but one of the most lucid, thoughtful, and studious jazz writers on the planet. …Chicago Reader


Fred Thomas: double bass

Fred Thomas studied at the Royal Academy of Music and is one of London’s most sought-after multi-instrumentalists and composer/arranger/producers. Fred has appeared or collaborated with a wide variety of artists, including Jarvis Cocker, Tamara Stefanovich, Basquiat Strings, CBSO, Elysian Quartet, Jason Yarde, Julian Siegel, Alice Zawadzki, Seb Rochford, Oren Marshall and Olivia Chaney, as well as record labels Harmonica Mundi and Realworld. He has toured worldwide with Filter Theatre and as musical director with Shakespeare’s Globe, as well as producing albums for many artists throughout Europe. His most recent compositions, for voice, string quartet and percussion, were commissioned by BitterSuite and Phaedra Ensemble and are being performed internationally and at the Royal Opera House, London.


Martin France: drums

Martin France has performed and recorded with some of the world’s finest and creative musicians. He has performed in all five continents including concerts and tours in over forty countries worldwide. He is currently Professor of Jazz – Drums/Percussion at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Martin began performing at the age of twelve backing singers in Working Men’s clubs with Organ trios in and around Manchester in the North of England. He studied under Geoff Riley, Kenny Clare and Richard Smith – Principal Percussionist with the Halle Orchestra. After moving to London in 1983 he began his recording career performing on several records for Manfred Eicher’s ECM label. He has since gone on to record over one hundred CD’s for a variety of different artists since his ECM debut.

He has been active for many years as a studio musician in London performing on numerous recording sessions with many of the world’s leading composers, conductors and arrangers for both European and American Film and TV productions. He is also involved in composing music for KPM/EMI Music in London, the music from which has been used extensively for worldwide TV and commercial broadcast.

Along the way Martin has performed and recorded with some of the world’s most diverse and finest musicians including Elvis Costello, Evan Parker, David Gilmour, John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler, Ralph Towner, John Dankworth, Lee Konitz, Dave Holland, Arild Anderson, Mark Johnson,  Steve Swallow,  Mike Gibbs, Maria Schneider, Gwilym Simcock,  Palle Danielsson, June Tabor, Claire Martin, Django Bates, Jason Rebello, Joanna MacGregor, Liane Carroll, Charlie Mariano, John Surman, and Joe Lovano to name but a few.