Year Of The Snake

Fly - Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier, Jeff Ballard

On its second ECM CD, recorded in New York last year, Fly continues to overturn the conventions of the sax/bass/drums trio.  Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard share freedom and responsibilities in a democratically-constituted band of equals, which is never about soloist-and-accompaniment. More often coolheaded and thoughtful than incantatory, the trio’s music subtly interweaves improvisation and composition; there are some deep conversations, and reflections on jazz history, taking place inside it. All three members contribute tunes to the programme of “Year of the Snake”, which builds on the achievements of the earlier “Sky and Country” (“Clever, expert, 100% engaged, and very musical” – The Guardian).

Featured Artists Recorded

January 2011, Avatar Studios, New York

Original Release Date


  • 1The Western Lands I
    (Mark Turner)
  • 2Festival Tune
    (Mark Turner)
  • 3The Western Lands II
    (Jeff Ballard, Larry Grenadier, Mark Turner)
  • 4Brothersister
    (Mark Turner)
  • 5Diorite
    (Jeff Ballard)
  • 6Kingston
    (Larry Grenadier)
  • 7Salt and Pepper
    (Jeff Ballard, Mark Turner)
  • 8The Western Lands III
    (Jeff Ballard, Larry Grenadier, Mark Turner)
  • 9Benj
    (Jeff Ballard)
  • 10Year Of The Snake
    (Mark Turner)
  • 11The Western Lands IV
    (Jeff Ballard, Larry Grenadier, Mark Turner)
  • 12The Western Lands V
    (Jeff Ballard, Larry Grenadier, Mark Turner)
“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 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 often 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.