The American quartet Human Feel – reeds player Andrew D’Angelo, and Chris Speed, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and Jim Black was formed in Boston in 1987 and soon was one of New York’s most distinctive downtown bands of the mid 90s. «Speak To It» was released to great acclaim in 1996 and is the fourth album of the quartet but somehow the band subsequently lost momentum, as everyone was busy with their own projects. Speed and Black continued to collaborate in Speed’s Yeah No, Black’s AlasNoAxis, and Endangered Blood, and all became dominant voices of modern and free jazz scenes on both sides of the Atalntic. Human Feel was regrouped again in 2007 and in 2016 and released its recent album «Gold” in 2019 on Intakt.
25 years later, Speed discovered the «Speak To It» ¼” analog mixes, thought to be lost, while clearing out his Brooklyn apartment. Using today’s much improved digital converters and software, this new high-res (24/192) transfer reveals for the first time just how vivid this music should sound. Its improvements in clarity, timbre, texture and dynamics can still be heard at regular resolution, «Speak To It» features compositions by D’Angelo, Black and Speed, and a a most beautiful cover of Mal Waldron-Billie Holiday’s ballad «Left Alone», sung by Holly Palmer.
The new version of «Speak To It» keeps the music of this quartet fresh, urgent and edgy. Human Feel was at the mid-nineties a powerful working band, fierce but also openly emotional, risk-taking but with an almost telepathic interplay, and a great sense of fun. Human Feel’s inclusive kind of downtown free jazz welcomed heavy riffs from Seattle’s grunge rock bands and irregular rhythmic patterns, injected a quirky sense of humor to its tight dynamics and sounded like no other band of the nineties. D’angelo and Speed sound like identical twin brothers, always complementing each other’s ideas, and never surrender to familiar narratives; Rosenwinkel pushes Human Feel into unpredictable courses and often anchors the commotion; the hyperactive drumming of Black keeps all on their toes and supplies uplifting grooves. Great album.
Andrew D’Angelo (bcl, as), Chris Speed (cl, ts), Kurt Rosenwinkel (g), Jim Black (dr)