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Mark Turner/Jeff Ballard/Larry Grenadier: FLY

Bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard go all the way back to gigging together in their teenage years in Northern California. The two met tenor player Mark Turner after moving east, and Ballard made this group a proper trio a few years later when he had the opportunity to contribute an original work to a Chick Corea recording project. Savoy approached Mark Turner after his contract with Warner Bros. expired, and Turner suggested this collective trio instead.

It’s clear from the start that Turner wasn’t just spinning collectivist hot air. The spare, layered and frequently funky postbop debut finds the band constantly shifting support and frontline roles as well as melodic and harmonic duties between each member. Turner has largely set aside the long, wending Warne Marsh-influenced lines he used to great effect on his solo work, choosing instead to play clipped phrases with a flattened delivery. Sometimes he sounds sweet and gnomic, as on “State of the Union” or his ballad “Stark.” Other times he comes across as distracted or confined. He’ll run through basic scales or patterns, or he’ll fade himself out, mid-phrase, as if he suddenly lost interest. If he’s trying to deflect attention to his bandmates, it works. Ballard and Grenadier never sound at a loss for something interesting to say. Their interplay sparkles, and the music goes as far as they take it. In particular, their duo spot on the hip-shaking Jerry Jemmott dedication “JJ” is a standout.

Originally Published