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Mark Turner: Ballad Session

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It takes fortitude to buck convention, which suggests that an entire program of ballads just won’t make it in these swift, dot-com times. Fortitude, a bucket of self-assurance and a kind of quiet confidence in one’s instrumental abilities and session mates are a pre-requisite when traveling down such a relatively risky path. Such are the attributes of Mark Turner. After all, here’s a young tenor player who looked not so much to John Coltrane for sustenance, as to such disparate craftsmen as Warne Marsh (evidence: check Turner’s role in the Lennie Tristano tribute in New York this month). Turner’s approach to the tenor is arid and thoughtful in a quite intriguing way that marks him as a developing original.

Turner’s soul mates for the date are guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, with whom he is evolving a productive partnership, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Brian Blade. Certainly the program bears its share of standards, such as the opener “I Loves You Porgy,” “Skylark,” “All or Nothing at All,” but from there he travels such disparate vistas as Carla Bley’s “Jesus Maria,” Bobby Hutcherson’s “Visions,” Herbie Hancock’s “Alone and I,” and Paul Desmond’s “Late Lament” on a 10-track program chock full of interesting ideas. Not to mention the rewards of hearing these songs unfold at relaxed tempos. Here’s a concept that works!