Friday, January 22, 2010
If you stripped the term "smooth jazz" of every single negative connotation, and then sought out the epitome of what those words actually mean, you might find yourself obsessing over Fly, as I currently am. If I'd have spent due time with this trio's 2009 release, Sky and Country, it probably would've placed a lot higher on my year-end jazz list. The album has mystified me over the past days: so wispy that it recedes into the background with even a moment's lapse of attention, but so sturdy and engaging if you can manage to focus.
Saxophonist Mark Turner's sublimated heat and drummer Jeff Ballard's exceedingly delicate yet hard-driving momentum. Bassist Larry Grenadier ruminating or holding it down. Compositions with thorough, convincing architecture. A lot of variety from piece to piece: backbeat, post–second-great-Miles-quintet freebop, hushed prayers, even a crazy drum 'n' bass styled thing. (All rendered on Sky and Country with inimitable ECM classiness: perfectly elegant.) It almost goes without saying, but this is a working band (and one that bills no player's name out front, which I love). This weekend they'll be working at Jazz Standard. Jim Macnie has some brief words of praise and a great video. David Adler wrote a nice profile for TONY last year. [After writing this, I discovered some strong recent live recordings on the Fly MySpace.]
Also: Tonight, Hexa and The Octagon share a bill at Bruar Falls. Both bands feature good friends of mine and musical collaborators past and present. I'm biased but both also create outstanding modern guitar-pop music. The Octagon has a great new record out on Serious Business--you should definitely pick it up.
Also: Jean-Ralphio. I cannot stop watching this.
Also: Neglected to mention here that Roaratorio has an awesome new limited-edition Joe McPhee LP out with liner notes by me, sourced from this blog post. (The gig you hear on the record is the very same one I wrote about.)