Sunday, November 05, 2006

Fly - 26/10/2006@CC Luchtbal, Antwerpen

Mark Turner - ts, ss
Larry Grenadier - b
Jeff Ballard - d

Fly seems to be a well-guarded secret: only about 100 people turned out, despite the Luchtbal being an absolutely perfect setting for this trio, as they could play without any amplification whatsoever (save, of course, the bass amp. I wonder what impact its introduction and current ubiquity has had on jazz). The crowd was mainly old jazz heads and musicians (Peter Hertmans, Lionel Beuvens, Steven Delannoye, Seppe Gebruers and a gaggle of young students).

The music was highly mutable, plopping written elements in unexpected places or, on the contrary, letting itself dissolve into a haze of serendipity. A lot of saxophone trios seem to descend from Sonny Rollins's, this one made me think of Lee Konitz's with Sonny Dallas and Elvin Jones on Motion, although I'm not sure the parallel is at all accurate.

When Mark Turner came onstage, he put his soprano down behind the drums, but stood on the other side of the stage to perform. It was a strange thing to do, but from his playing, you get the sense that he's the kind of person who does a lot of strange things. The only other time I saw him, fronting a French rhythm section alongside Ravi Coltrane, he struck me as intriguing. This time, his delicacy was quite engrossing and demurely placed all drama on the micro-level: a thinning of tone, a change of register, an ongoing struggle against too easy a flow of notes. On "Dharma Days," he let loose some thrilling long lines, sometimes as climaxes, but just as often he would skid down the length of the tenor as a prelude to a short, choppy repeated motif.

Larry Grenadier and Turner effortlessly traded leads and filled in each other's gaps. The bassist would slide almost imperceptibly from shadowing Turner to hooking up with Ballard to veering off into a third, independent zone, so that much of the music's sense of freedom rested upon him. Grenadier penned my favourite tune of the evening, "State Of The Union." It's the kind of tune bassists seem to like to write, with a touching melody broken up by the occasional tricky, synchronised break and settling into a relaxed, behind-the-beat pocket. Grenadier's initial reading of the head made excellent use of harmonics and the bass's upper register.

Jeff Ballard liked to surge ahead with a groove populated by lots of little events, at times reproducing the fantastic drum 'n' bass-ish beat that opens Brad Mehldau's Day Is Done. His "Piano 2" (I think) was essentially a three-note motif shifted around, as if he were still humming it to himself, trying to find the perfect phrasing for it. "Sky And Country" served as encore, and started very delicate and airborne, then Grenadier started double-stopping to lend it a back-porch feel.

Towards the end of the concert, Turner took advantage of the microphone-less situation to rove the back of the large stage, adding indeterminate sounds behind a bass solo. When he came back up front to play some very consistent quarter-tone/micro-tone stuff, he sounded almost like a synthesizer gone mad. It was only after that that he played his first straight blues lick of the evening, and it was pretty startling.