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Fly: Sky & Country

Dan McClenaghan By

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The trio Fly has been described as "two thirds of the Brad Mehldau Trio and a saxophonist." Not to diminish reed man Mark Turner—who is the other third of group—but as an acknowledgment of his band mates' higher profiles. And if the higher profiles of the other two thirds—bassist FLY and drummer Jeff Ballard—pulls in a higher percentage of attention for Fly, all the better.

Sky and Country is the group's second offering, and it's debut on ECM Records. The Germany-based label has a reputation for showcasing European artists with restrained, refined and somewhat abstract approaches, like Bobo Stenson and Tord Gustavsen. But that's a pigeon-holing that doesn't define or do justice to a label that also represents the often unrestrained Keith Jarrett Standards trio and decidedly unfettered Trio Beyond.

And with Fly the "European" tag can be thrown out the door. Ballard, Grenadier and Turner are California guys—the drummer and bassist born and bred, and the saxophonist having moved to the Golden State when he was four years old. All are New York-based these days.

The sax/drums/bass setting, without a guitar or piano, makes for a looser ensemble feel with a fluidity of spontaneity that opens improvisational doors. The music on Sky and Country flows freely, smooth and cool, with Turner's vibrato-less reed work blowing democratically in the ensemble. Indeed, a characteristic of the sound is its resistance to a breakdown—for description's sake—of the individual voices. Fly is not a working band by any stretch of the imagination, but what a breathing, organic music it makes as the trio remains in a laid-back, homeostatic equilibrium.

The tunes—four by Turner, three by Ballard and two from Grenadier's pen—have a searching feeling, a one foot in front of the other quest for musical nirvana, a beautiful and accessible sound with a spiritual tint.

Track Listing: Lady B; Sky & Country; Elena Berenjena; CJ; Dharma Days; Ananda Nanda; Perla Morena; Transfigured; Super Sister.

Personnel: Mark Turner: tenor and soprano saxophones; Larry Grenadier: double-bass; Jeff Ballard: drums.

Title: Sky & Country | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ECM Records

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