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Concert Review: Fly at the Jazz Standard

Friday, April 10th, 2009

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating


The Fly Trio - Mark Turner, Jeff Balard, and Larry Grenadier
© Lourdes Delgado
Fly, a jazz trio composed of saxophonist Mark Turner, drummer Jeff Ballard, and bassist Larry Grenadier, performed at the Jazz Standard in New York City to celebrate the release of their second album. Sky and Country (ECM) was made available on March 31st, 2009. The group melds popular styles with jazz improvisation, with compositions in which the responsibilities are spread evenly across the three musicians.

The general mood of the Friday, April 10th performance at the Standard was introverted and ponderous. These are two qualities that are not unexpected coming from a saxophone trio – the absence of a harmonic instrument makes for a wide-open, suspended sound – and especially one that features Mark Turner, whose unfaltering restraint is adopted from the Lennie Tristano school saxophonist Warne Marsh.

Fly compensated for the inevitable removed sense by using the principle of simplicity in their compositions. Simplicity arose throughout the set in the music’s formal structure, melodic material, and rhythmic foundations.

The melody of the set-opener, Turner’s “Elena Berenjena,” is an exploration of an ascending major scale, while Ballard plays a bridled rock beat. In Ballard’s composition, “Perla Morena,” Turner strayed from linear melodic improvisation in favor of fleshing out the harmonic content with arpeggiated chords, briefly taking on the role of a piano or guitar.

Over drum & bass grooves, rock beats, and occasional swing, Turner and Grenadier share the spotlight when presenting the melody. At one point, they traded improvised sections with each other, underscoring their musical equity. In fact, an extended solo by any individual member of Fly is extremely rare. This group rejects the traditional relationship of accompanist to soloist.

The bare-bones nature of Fly’s music is fascinating in its democracy, and is a lesson on sensitive, reactive performance. The musicians strive to weave objects of beauty out of the sparsest elements. However, one can’t help wondering if their sensitivity to each other holds them back from acquiring certain degrees of intensity.

Fly’s 4-day run at the Jazz Standard marks the launch of their tour promoting Sky and Country

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