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Fly: Sky & Country

Jeff Stockton By

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Fly: Sky & Country 15 years ago Mark Turner was among a trio of young tenors who were poised to have a lasting impact on jazz. However, having not had Joshua Redman's pedigree or James Carter's flair for self-promotion, Turner's major-label output came and went without generating the attention a musician of his caliber deserved. Today he is a member of Fly, a cooperative trio representing the best a sax-bass-drums lineup—featuring Brad Mehldau's rhythm section—has to offer.

Bassist FLY has two writing credits on Sky & Country, while drummer Jeff Ballard has three. The urban hard bop of Ballard's "Lady B" has Turner tipping into the high range on his intensified tenor and on the CD's title track a slinky, slightly ominous rhythm underscores Turner's dark chocolate soprano sax. Grenadier offers "CJ," which allows Turner to bring his depth and gentle touch to a memorable ballad, and "Transfigured," which marries the bassist's bow to soprano while Ballard's mallets tumble in the background in the disc's most atmospheric track. It's Turner's long and absorbing "Anandananda" that serves as the centerpiece performance, opening with a pensive tenor solo before being joined by bass and finally drums as the two-part piece transforms itself into a tango.

In the studio Fly plays against ECM's reputation for recording classically-oriented improvisers in a clinical, almost sterile, setting. On Easter Sunday 2009, the last of four nights at New York's Jazz Standard, lined up nearly shoulder to shoulder across the cozy stage the band benefited from charged interaction and their ability to communicate ideas to one another and the audience. Turner moved vertically with his notes like a piston, his tone on tenor whispery, confident and conspiratorial, drawing in listeners. Ballard leaned into his drum kit to supply the correct accents and dynamics that spurred each tune and Grenadier tied the two together with a forceful woody tone that resonated through the club. Live, the music expanded past the boundaries of home listening, emphasizing shared intuitions and mutually supported risk-taking.

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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