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Mark Turner: International Alliances

Tom Greenland By

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Diego Barber
Calima
Sunnyside Records
2008


Mamasaal Quartet
Mamasaal feat. Mark Turner
SAZAS
2008




Saxophonist Mark Turner, a notable bandleader and distinctive voice in his own right, has been especially effective as a co-contributor on diverse projects. On Calimaand Mamasaal, he matches wits and skills with an international cast.

Calimais Canary Island-born guitarist Diego Barber's debut release, blending jazz, classical and flamenco influences into an original hybrid. His acoustic fingerstyle technique combines sweeping arpeggios, open-string chords, fleet pizzicato runs, funk-bass slaps and pops, as well as the falsetas (improvised interludes), chordal embellishments and tremolos of flamenco. His writing is predominantly modal, based on vamps in guitar-friendly keys. Joining Barber and Turner are bassist FLY and drummer Jeff Ballard, fleshing out his musical vision with supple sensitivity. Turner's dry, slightly singed tone meshes well with the guitar on unison lines and during "Piru"'s tandem blowing section. Although generally curtailing his solos to serve the song, the tenorist makes strong statements on "Lanzarote," raising a quick head of steam with short, chain-linked figures, and on "Air," where his blazing lines subside suddenly, as if evaporating. The 20-minute closing track also features Grenadier's bowed, cello-like bass and Barber's climbing chords and treble melodies that sustain interest and mood.

Mamasaal, another international alliance, teams Turner and bassist Matt Brewer with two Slovenians: guitarist Samo Salamon and drummer Aljosa Jeric. This is a more democratic effort, documenting mutual chemistry developed through touring. Unassumingly charismatic, Salamon composes and improvises with unforced originality. "Night Thoughts" and the M-Base influenced "Make the Duck Sound" exhibit his interactive comping and eccentrically logical solos that create complex architecture from deceptively simple elements; his turn on "Happy Girl" contains flashes of casual brilliance. Jeric, the other principal composer, is highly interactive, especially with his percussive counterpoint on "High Heels." Brewer enjoys generous solo space, delivering with consistent drive and Turner is an equal partner here, seamlessly doubling lines with Salamon and improvising adventurously. On "High Heels" disparate fragments gradually coalesce into a comprehensive statement while on "Little Eva," his tightly inscribed turns invite rhythm section responses. "Night Thoughts" also uses space effectively, concluding with gentle grace but on "Pale But Beautiful" he mixes it up more, as if musing over the harmonic implications, then unloading dense torrents of clustered sound. With "Happy Girl" short fragments spin out into elongated lines, Turner's tone growing huskier with intensity, winding down at last with sparse off-beat hits.


Tracks & Personnel

Calima

Tracks: Piru; 190 East; Desierto; Catalpa; Lanzarote; Richi; Virgianna; Air.

Personnel: Diego Barber: guitar; Mark Turner: tenor sax; Larry Grenadier: bass; Jeff Ballard: drums.

Mamasaal feat. Mark Turner

Tracks: Flying Serpents; High Heels; Little Eva; Night Thoughts; Internal Affairs; Pale But Beautiful; Make the Duck Sound; Elephants On Holidays; Happy girl; The Shy One.

Personnel: Samo Salamon: guitar; Aljosa Jeric: drums; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; Matt Brewer: bass.

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