Ballard's "Child Play" opens the set and sets the tone for the CD, a playful, open-ended piece based on Ghanaian rhythms and featuring expressive percussion from the drummer who provides two additional pieces. "Fly Mr. Frekjar" is the band's signature tune, a free exploration for all hands. Turner contributes "Stark," a tender ballad that showcases his saxophone nicely--indebted to Coltrane, but lighter, languorous with suggestions of Ornette and Wayne Shorter. "JJ" is the first of three compositions from Grenadier, a funky tribute to bassist Jerry Jermott. "Emergence/Resurgence" features polyrhythmic interplay between bass drums recalling Charlie Haden & Ed Blackwell. The group gives an interesting acoustic reading of Jimi Hendrix's "Spanish Castle Magic," bringing the piece to a rolling boil rather than following the spicier recipe of the original.
Fly's self-titled debut smolders with intensity, occasionally catching fire on pieces like Reid Anderson's "Todas Las Cosas Se Van." Rhythmically dense, Ballard and Grenadier are consistently engaging though the latter is a little overmiked and the former sometimes overplays while Turner is, if anything, understated. Having said that, this is a refreshing CD that stands up to repeated listenings and it is very much to be hoped that Fly is an aggregation that will continue to work and record together.