Fly- Year of the Snake
(ECM 277 6644, CD Review by Chris Parker)
The New York-based trio Fly was formed, according to bassist Larry Grenadier, 'out of a desire to share all the knowledge that we've accumulated separately and bring it together in this bare-bones format', and both on this and on their debut ECM album, Sky & County, what a recent reviewer termed a 'selfless, collaborative spirit' characterises their music.
Drummer Jeff Ballard actually founded the band, and it is his assertive (yet often oblique) drumming that binds the group sound, his almost telepathic musical sympathy with the lithe, vigorous but subtle Grenadier (they also perform as Brad Mehldau's rhythm section) providing the perfect setting for tenor player Mark Turner's insinuating, deceptively softly spoken approach to soloing.
'Deceptively' is the operative word here; as anyone who's heard Turner live (or has listened to Phil Robson's The Immeasurable Code) will know, he has an uncanny
ability to build satisfying climaxes from the sparest ingredients, moving almost imperceptibly up through the gears from musing contemplation to powerful (but quiet) intensity with graceful ease and elegance.
The material here is provided by all three bandmembers, Ballard's 'Benj' and his 'Salt and Pepper', co-composed with Turner, perhaps the most immediately accessible pieces, the trio's sporadic bursts of collective improvisation ('The Western Lands I–V') occupying the freest end of the spectrum. But whether they're exploring all the nooks and crannies of Grenadier's multi-hued 'Kingston', its vigorous arco passages giving the band sound a highly effective extra dimension, or providing a platform for Turner's mesmerising tenor journeys before swapping soloing duties with all the assurance of a well-drilled sprint-relay team, Fly continue to produce some of the most thoughtful, absorbing – and enjoyable – music on the contemporary scene.