On its second ECM album, Fly - the adventurous collective of three influential American jazz musicians - continues to overturn and subvert the conventions of the sax/bass/drums trio. Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard share freedom and responsibilities in a democratically-constituted band of equals, which is never about soloist-and-accompaniment.
More often coolheaded and thoughtful than incantatory, the trio's music subtly interweaves improvisation and composition; there are some deep conversations, and reflections on jazz history, taking place inside it. All three members contribute original tunes to the album Year of the Snake. Threaded throughout the programme are a series of five spontaneously created vignettes, 'The Western Lands'.
As bassist Larry Grenadier has explained the group was formed "out of a desire to share all the knowledge that we've accumulated separately and bring it together in this bare-bones format". Fly's unique approach to the pianoless trio, with its "selfless, collaborative spirit" (to quote Time Out NY), and its eclectic yet tightly focussed music, has since become a reference for players and listeners alike.
Building on the achievements of the earlier Sky and Country ("Clever, expert, 100% engaged, and very musical" was The Guardian's verdict), Year of the Snake was produced by Manfred Eicher at New York's Avatar Studios in January 2011.
Saxophonist Mark Turner is also on another new ECM album, Billy Hart's All Our Reasons with Ethan Iverson and Ben Street, while Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard are also well-known as the rhythm section of the Brad Mehldau Trio.
Personnel: Mark Turner (tenor saxophone), Larry Grenadier (double-bass), Jeff Ballard (drums)
'Year of the Snake is up there with Fly's best work, with its rustling fast grooves and languid horn lines...one of the great contemporary jazz small groups.' -- The Guardian, (John Fordham)* * * *
'The equal-partners jazz trio Fly combine the light-toned and pensive saxophonist Mark Turner with the rhythm section that makes Brad Mehldau's piano trio such a world-beater...a programme of strong themes, bustling escapades and jaunty ruminations.' -- Financial Times, (Mike Hobart) * * * *
'The overall mood is one of introspective abstraction but the interplay between all three musicians is breathtaking.' -- Record Collector, (Charles Waring) * * * *
'Turner's tone is immediately arresting...the percussion density of Ballard entirely suits Fly by providing a force field of energy that compliments and contrasts Turner's often potent lyricism.'
--Jazzwise, (Stuart Nicholson)