Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mark Turner: Purssuance

Mark Turner (sax, b. 1965)

Mark Tuner has garned praise from contemporaries as well as his elders. He has laid down the guantlet to his generation to push beyond what you see around you. Mark Turner's style is unlike many of his contemporaries. He is a wealth of ideas and his writing can be highly cerebral. A song can start off in a traditional fashion but then go in a completely different direction before you realize it. Mark Turner creates a magical atmosphere with each of his recordings. Raised in California and then moving to New York where really gained his chops, Mark Turner has always been compared to the great Wayne Marsh due the same originality and lush tone of their recordings. There is also the obvious comparisons to John Coltrane but I think that's only upon first listen. But like Coltrane, Mark Turner has developed a voice all his own.

Mark Turner's albums are a study in technique and structure. I have been a fan since I first heard his debut, Yam Yam (Criss Cross Jazz; 1995). Yam Yam is a serious record, rich in detail and captures a talented artist far beyond his years. Mark has recorded six albums as leader since but is also session member with fellow collaborators Larry Grenadier (bass), Brad Mehldau (piano), Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar) and Jeff Ballard (drums) on their albums.

Mark recently suffered what appeared to be a serious and career-ending injury to two of his fingers that kept him from playing for almost a year. Through persistent rehab and a strong will, Mark overcame the injury and has been back on the touring circuit with Grenadier and Ballard as the trio Fly. Fly has released two highly acclaimed albums, Fly (Savoy; 2004) and Sky & Country (ECM; 2009). Both albums are phenomenal and worth the purchase. The same creativity that encompasses Mark's solo recordings can be found within the Fly trio. He is also a member of the revolving collective SF Jazz Collective working out of San Francisco (think of it as the East coast version of Jazz At Lincoln Center).

Mark Turner's own material is becoming increasingly harder to find (even at the coolest of record stores). But luckily one of my favourite Mark Turner albums, Dharma Days (Warner Brothers; 2001) is the easiest to find. Dharma Days is the perfect example of Turner's intricate melodies and rhythmic beauty that sets him apart from other saxophonists. The simpatico he shares with his longtime bandmates, Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar), Reid Anderson (bass), and Nasheet Waits (drums) appears in full on this album. Dharma Days is a record that will leave you in awe that someone this young can turn out an album of such maturity and creativity that you will have to seek out the rest of his catalog.

I have seen most of Mark Turner's albums available for download if you choose to go that route. Mark Turner is undeniably the most important saxophonist of his generation. He continues to explore new themes and ideas on record and in concert that others have yet or can even try. The trio Fly are touring and its probably the best way to experience Mark's music if you have the chance.

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