Fly: Year of the Snake (ECM/Ode)

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Fly: Diorite
Fly: Year of the Snake (ECM/Ode)

This sinuous, mysterious, rhythmic and back-to-the-bone album comes from a young trio which has impeccable pedigree.

Saxophonist Mark Turner has played with numerous ECM artists (Dave Holland, Paul Motian) as well as Brad Mehldau, Billy Hart and James Moody; bassist Larry Grenadier came through Gary Burton's band to clock up work with Enrico Rava (he and Turner were on the exceptional New York Days), three superb albums with Charles Lloyd including Lift Every Voice) and drummer Jeff Ballard spent time with Ray Charles, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Joshua Redman, Mehldau . . .

There is quite some collective experience here, and none of them have hit 40 yet. Off and on they have played together for 20 years.

This is their second outing as a trio for ECM and perhaps the hints to its sound lie in the short tracks interpolated throughout, they are variations on a theme called The Western Lands which was the title of a William Burroughs novel (which explored death, among other things).

Not to say this is gloomy or oppressive, rather that it is meditative, allusive and takes itself slowly through teased out rhythms and melodic lines where no single instrument strikes you as predominant.

That writing credits are evenly split also tells you of the democratic and equal division here.

Turner brings a plaintive sound in places, in others he gets an energy injection for a sprint across the top of the angular patterns laid down by Ballard (the 10 minute Kingston), and some pieces are abstract but never to the point of being willfully abstruse (the slightly mournful and ethereal Western Lands III). Diorite is weasling, minimlaist piece of repeated phrases then slight but important shifts in tone and direction.

Although one of the more easy albums to assimilate on a first hearing, this one opens itself up with every listening.

ECM release a lot of albums -- far too many for most to keep up with -- but this counts among the most interesting of recent times.

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