While it's hard to miss the pervasive influence of John Coltrane on Berklee-educated tenorist Mark Turner, the traces of Warne Marsh in his beautiful playing are far more arresting and exciting. Like many of his Berklee classmates, Turner draws from countless jazz traditions, from free jazz to cool jazz, but his work consistently reflects a seamless synthesis of such schools.
Such diversity is readily apparent on the superb All's Well by the International Hashva Orchestra-which is actually a quintet led by the Swiss-Cameroonian alto saxophonist Nat Su-but it's impossible not to see the classic collaborations of Marsh and alto great Lee Konitz as a key point of reference. On the buoyant heads of Su's elegantly swinging compositions the two reedists achieve a sumptuously airy blend, a sound that arrives as the album's most blatant nod to Marsh and Konitz. Backed by pianist Mike Kanan, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Jorge Rossy-another fellow Berklee pal-they stake out their own turf on their solos. Turner's work has grainy glimmers of Coltrane's emotionalism, but in general he exhibits remarkable control, his improvisations guided first and foremost by melody. He'll accent his gorgeous lines with a touch of harmonic ambiguity here or a quick little curlicue there, but, like any good Lennie Tristano disciple, Turner is forever focused on keeping it lyrical; his sophisticated rhythmic and harmonic variations are mostly a means to that end. Su lacks some of Turner's concentration, occasionally getting lost in aimless bebop flurries, but he makes an excellent foil. Among the album's highlights are three short improvised sax duets, where Su and Turner braid their fleet lines with a mix of ESP and good-natured harmonic derring-do. The pair also goes head-to-head for much of the lovely ballad "Damian," an exciting dose of contrapuntal tightrope walking. Kanan also contributes his fair share of compelling solos, most of them kissed with puckish, Monkish rhythmic displacements. It's a fine piece of work and one that only reinforces Turner's importance among the new breed.