16 April 2009

Review: Sky & Country

It is with a hearty sigh of relief that Fly is back on the road in support of their latest album, Sky & Country. In November of last year, saxophonist Mark Turner cut two fingers on a power saw, severing some nerves and potentially ending his career as a saxophonist. Luckily for everyone, Turner was able to make a full recovery with the help of some expert surgeons and physical therapists. The trio is now touring behind Sky & Country (recorded in early 2008, before Turner's injury).

Whenever a new saxophone-bass-drums trio record is released, the jazz press rather predictably connects that record to a long chain of saxophone trios dating back to Ornette Coleman and Sonny Rollins. However, what strikes me about Fly is how the band at times sounds like any of the 1960s Bill Evans trios. On "Lady B," the interplay between Turner and Grenadier reminds me of the relationship between Evans and bassists Scott LaFaro and Eddie Gomez. See for instance this video of the two plus drummer Alex Riel playing "Nardis" in 1966 (for an even better example, listen to Evans and LaFaro on any of the takes of "Gloria's Step" from the 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings):

Like Evans' trios, Fly is quite democratic. The simple melody of "Super Sister," for instance, allows Ballard to take the lead on drums, much in the way David King is utilized by The Bad Plus on some tunes. Whereas Com
pass, to pick one recent example of a saxophone trio, serves primarily as a vehicle for Joshua Redman, Sky & Country feels more like a three-person showcase.

The title of the album alludes to open space, a theme which is reflected throughout the disc. However, upon first hearing the album, I was left wishing the band had not kept things so subdued throughout the entire disc. Negative space is important, but without a bit of energy to play off of, it can leave the listener wanting. That is not to say the album was boring; merely, it drags at points. Though Sky & Country is not a perfect album, it is nonetheless a fun ride.

Bonus: Fly plays "State of the Union" at the Sunside jazz club in Paris:

See also: Jason Crane interviews Fly on The Jazz Session

Track Listing:
Lady B; Sky & Country; Elena Berenjena; CJ; Dharma Days; Anandananda; Morena, Perla; Transfigured; Super Sister
Personnel: Mark Turner, saxophone; Larry Grenadier, bass; Jeff Ballard, drums


Ted Hill said...

I haven't listened to this yet, I might tonight since there is no ballgame on. Looking forward to it.

Jason Crane said...

Thanks for the link, as always!

Jason Crane
The Jazz Session