“Fly is a new thing. The trio has the intimacy of a close up conversation and the depth of three free minds exploring and expanding on each other's ideas. Uncluttered creativity."
Sky & Country is the ECM debut of the highly-regarded collective trio that drummer Jeff Ballard has memorably described as “an intimate band with teeth". It's a group that overturns expectations of its specific instrumentation. Modern jazz history is not short on highly charged sax/bass/drums trios, including those of Sonny Rollins, Albert Ayler and Sam Rivers, but Fly is differently cast. Equal rights for all instruments is one goal. The saxophone seeks parity with bass and drums, and its refusal to fill all the space with sound brings another set of tensions into play. As writer Nate Chinen observed in a JazzTimes article, “This is music that that expands and contracts, effortlessly and dramatically and that balances the cerebral components of group improvisation with the more gut-level element of groove." Or as Brad Meldau, who works regularly with Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard in his own trio has said: “Fly brings together elements in their playing that are oft en at odds with each other: On the one hand their music can be intellectually challenging - their compositions in particular can be rhythmically and harmonically dense. In spite of that, their music makes a strong emotional impact, felt through the deep rhythmic groove, and the organic way that these three musicians tell a story together."
The group first surfaced as the Jeff Ballard Trio in 2000 on one track of the anthology Originations, curated by Chick Corea (Ballard was Chick's drummer at the time) and became Fly with the release of their first album, on Savoy, in 2004. Association between the players however goes back much further. Grenadier and Ballard played music together as teenagers in California in the early 1980s and subsequently gigged together often. They both migrated to the US's East coast in 1990 where they met Turner, and the three musicians have played in diverse permutations and contexts since then.
In Fly, Turner, Grenadier and Ballard all write material. Mark Turner: “Sometimes it's the saxophone carrying the melody. Other times it's the bass or drums. We spread out the frontline duties among us." Sky & Country features three Ballard tunes, four by Turner, and two by Grenadier.