Mark Turner, Jeff Ballard and FLY first played together in 2000 as the Jeff Ballard Trio. Since then they have performed in different groups. The long association has helped establish immediacy between them, a reading of the minds that translates into absorbing music.
All three have contributed compositions to Sky & Country, the second release by their collaborative group Fly. The music has impeccable character in its ability to evolve and break open into some majestic improvisation. Turner gives each phrase a distinctive air, whether it is in the sinuous curl of the soprano sax or the warm overtones of the tenor.
"CJ" stands up to be noticed as Turner stirs the embers of warmth on the tenor. His phrasing is articulate and deliberate, the steady progress of one who knows the road to take. He lets a light air of breathiness wisp into his playing as Grenadier plays a walking line and Ballard spaces time on the cymbals. Turner advances into the new with subtle changes of tone, an innate sense of belonging in unabashed evidence.
"Ananda Nanda" is galvanized by Indian motifs. Turner captures the imagination from the first note letting it billow down gently. His mood and approach are inspired, and as he plays with deep sensitivity he lets the song unfurl and seep its way into the soul. His inventiveness is complemented by Grenadier who turns the dynamics of the bass into illuminating pathways and Ballard who adds just enough rhythmic accents to enrich the beat.
The manipulation of time and space give "Sky & Country" an ethereal presence. Turner casts light and shadow with the soprano sax, his tonality delicately changing the texture of his phrases. Ballard and Grenadier add spark and the interplay between the trio, adding a trenchant immediacy.
Turner is the voice upfront, but Grenadier and Ballard complete the symbiotic relationship. That closeness weaves itself into the music and makes it fascinating.
Personnel: Mark Turner: tenor and soprano saxophones; Larry Grenadier: double-bass; Jeff Ballard: drums.