Fly is a new group made up of young players that have each established themselves individually. Bassist Larry Grenadier is well known for his associations with pianist Brad Mehldau and most recently the legendary Charles Lloyd, anchoring the saxophonist's exceptional last three releases. Jeff Ballard has come into prominence through his innovative drumming alongside Chick Corea in the New Trio and Origin. Saxophonist Mark Turner is the one member of the trio best known as a bandleader, but in Fly all three musicians seem to contribute on an equal basis.
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.