It took four Warner Bros. albums for Mark Turner to nail down his prodigiously advanced concept and find a dream band to help him do it. Dharma Days is the studio debut of Turner’s regular working quartet, with Kurt Rosenwinkel on guitar, Reid Anderson on bass, and Nasheet Waits on drums. This is a live band to the core, as was evident during its triumphant return to the Village Vanguard stage in late May, timed to coincide with the album release. While Dharma Days doesn’t quite stir the adrenaline to the degree that the live show does, the album is still a triumph, capturing a live feel to a far greater degree than many of Turner’s previous offerings.
Adding to the session’s depth is the fact that this is Turner’s first all-original outing. Having proven on previous efforts that he can play the post-bop staples and the ballads, he’s free to take us an extended tour of his compositional thinking, with no digressions. This includes a threefold tribute to some of his contemporaries: pianist Ethan Iverson ("Iverson’s Odyssey"), altoist Myron Walden ("Myron’s World") and, presumably, Jacky Terrasson ("Jacky’s Place"). Other highlights include the haunting ballad "We Three," the multi-episodic "Casa Oscura," and a freaky funk reworking of "Zurich" (from Turner’s 1994 Criss Cross debut Yam Yam ).
Together and separately, Turner and Rosenwinkel have developed what are arguably the most instantly identifiable styles in jazz today. Rosenwinkel continues to experiment sonically, phrasing in an odd, new way with the volume pedal on "Myron’s World" and employing sound-on-sound chording during "Jacky’s Place." (He relied on both effects during the live set as well.) And Turner’s labyrinthine lines and daunting harmonic language continue to set him apart from all of today’s young tenor stars. His conceptual contributions to the music are becoming nothing short of immense.
1. Iverson's Odyssey 2. Deserted Floor 3. Myron's World 4. We Three 5. Jacky's Place 6. Casa Oscura 7. Zurich 8. Dharma Days 9. Seven Points
Mark Turner, tenor saxophone; Kurt Rosenwinkel, guitar; Reid Anderson, bass; Nasheet Waits, drums