Hour 25 Tenor Titans – Mark Turner Now

Mark Turner

Tenor player Mark Turner is one of the few prominent players who identify tenor player Warne Marsh as an influence. Marsh was a student of pianist/composer Lennie Tristano, whose compositional influence can also be heard in Turner’s work. Over the past 25 years, Turner has released a relatively small set of discs as a leader, with the preponderance of his work represented by his extensive sideman activities and the work of Fly, his trio with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard, whose music was presented in an previous program in this series. This mix seems to be changing as German label ECM is providing Turner with more opportunities to present his work on his own releases. Recent work from Mark Turner in the next hour of Jazz at 100 Today!

Billy Hart Quartet
Drummer Billy Hart, who, in his long career, has, until recently, never had a regular recording unit, has recorded three times in the past 15 years in a quartet with Mark Turner including Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus on piano and Ben Street on bass. The most recent of these releases, All Our Reasons from 2012 and One is the Other from 2014, are on ECM, which seems to have become a comfortable home for Turner.

The releases from the Billy Hart Quartet feature compositions from Hart, Turner and Iverson in roughly equal measure. Lennie Groove from One is the Other is a Turner composition that is broadly reminiscent of its namesake Lennie Tristano. On AllAboutJazz, John Kelman wrote, “The a cappella piano solo occupying the first 105 seconds of Turner’s Lennie GrooveOne is the Other‘s opener, is as knotty as the saxophonist’s own theme when it enters around the two minute mark, doubled by Iverson, with Ben Street holding down the groove and Hart both defining the pulse alongside the bassist and tripling the melody on his kit. It’s a subtle but auspicious start.”

Nigeria. Billy Hart Quartet
(Mark Turner-ts, Ethan Iverson-p, Ben Street-b, Billy Hart-d). From All Our Reasons. ECM. 2012.
Lennie Groove. Billy Hart Quartet
(Mark Turner-ts, Ethan Iverson-p, Ben Street-b, Billy Hart-d). From One is the Other. ECM. 2014.

Mark Turner with Stefano Bollani and Ethan Iverson
Pianist Stefano Bollani assembled a quintet with Mark Turner and guitarist Bill Frisell to record Joy In Spite of Everything, in 2014.  John Kelman wrote, “Throughout, there’s plenty of stretching room for everyone… the playful Vale—the literal centrepiece of the album—may begin in more abstruse and atmospheric territory but builds, over the course of twelve minutes, to more dramatic solo features, first for Bollani. Turner, whose range and firmly controlled altissimo have long been defining strengths, turns in his best solo of the set here, all the while with Frisell creating an underpinning of responsive support that always manages to work in concert with Bollani—no small challenge for two chordal players who have plenty to contribute yet, with ears wide open, manage to avoid stepping on each other’s toes throughout.”

Ethan Iverson and Mark Turner released a duo recording in 2019, entitled Temporary Kings, in which they include Warne Marsh’s composition Dixie’s Dilemma. Mario Calvitti wrote, “The work highlights above all the talent of the pianist, who here fully manifests himself both as an interpreter and as a composer, while Turner confirms himself as an excellent soloist, with one of the most beautiful instrumental voices among the saxophonists of his generation.”

Vale. Stefano Bollani Quintet
(Mark Turner-ts, Stefano Bollani-p, Bill Frisell-g, Jesper Bodilsen-b, Morten Lund-d). From Joy In Spite of Everything. ECM. 2014
Dixie’s Dilemma. Mark Turner – Ethan Iverson
(Mark Turner-ts, Ethan Iverson-p). From Temporary Kings. ECM. 2019.

Mark Turner’s Lathe Of Heaven and Tom Harrell’s Infinity
Mark Turner recorded a disc of his compositions, Lathe of Heaven, on ECM in 2014 with a cordless quartet of Avishai Cohen on trumpet, Joe Martin on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. Of this project, John Kelman wrote, “As cerebral as Turner’s music can be and as considered as his compositional constructs are … Lathe of Heaven manages to stir the soul as much as it challenges the mind. Deep, dark and ever substituting implication for overt expressionism, it’s that very tension created by Turner’s quartet – more often than not, resolving in the most unexpected fashion – that makes the saxophonist’s first album as a leader in 13 years one worth celebrating. He may take his time between releases, but if an album like Lathe of Heaven is the result, then perhaps there’s something to be learned from Turner’s patience, and his clear commitment to quality over quantity.”

Trumpeter Tom Harrell’s quintet on this 2019 release Infinity, features Mark Turner with Charles Altura on guitar, Ben Street on bass, and Jonathan Blake on drums. On JazzTrail, Filipe Freitas wrote, “All these musicians have recorded with the trumpet player before and, on this particular album, their skills stand out in clean-cut narratives such as The Fast, which is pinned down by a hooky rocking vamp in seven, [featuring] Harrell and Turner as soloists… Turner is simply genial, shaping conversational phrases with momentary out-of-focus incursions, while Harrell puts a lot of sensitivity in melodic articulations surrounded by the finest light.”

Lathe Of Heaven. Mark Turner Quartet
(Avishai Cohen-tp, Mark Turner-ts, Joe Martin-b, Marcus Gilmore-d). From Lathe of Heaven. ECM.
Duet. Tom Harrell – Mark Turner duo
(Tom Harrell-fl, Mark Turner-ts). From Infinity. HighNote Records. 2019.
The Fast. Tom Harrell Quintet
(Tom Harrell-tp/fl, Mark Turner-ts, Charles Altura-g, Ben Street-b, Jonathan Blake-d). From Infinity. HighNote Records. 2019.

Mark Turner is a most unique player with a flawless extension of his range into the high altissimo register. His influences from Warne Marsh include improvised lines that tend to span several octaves and contain great harmonic and rhythmic complexity. His dates as a leader have come at wide intervals, but fortunately he has been maintaining a steady schedule of contributing to projects from other great players, so we have many opportunities to hear him in fine company.

Kelman, John. (2012, March 24). AllAboutJazz. Billy Hart: All Our Reasons. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/all-our-reasons-billy-hart-ecm-records-review-by-john-kelman.php

Kelman, John. (2014, March 5). AllAboutJazz. Billy Hart Quartet: One Is The Other. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/one-is-the-other-billy-hart-ecm-records-review-by-john-kelman.php

Kelman, John. (2014, August 19). AllAboutJazz. Stefano Bollani: Joy In Spite Of Everything. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/stefano-bollani-joy-in-spite-of-everything-by-john-kelman.php

Calvitti, Mario. (2019, February 18). AllAboutJazz. Mark Turner, Ethan Iverson: Temporary Kings. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/temporary-kings-mark-turner-ecm-records-review-by-mario-calvitti.php

Kelman, John. (2014, September, 5). AllAboutJazz. Mark Turner: Lathe Of Heaven. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/mark-turner-lathe-of-heaven-by-john-kelman.php

Freitas, Filipe. (2019, May 9). JazzTrail. Tom Harrell – Infinity. https://jazztrail.net/blog/tom-harrell-infinity-album-review

For other programs in Jazz at 100 Today! visit: Jazz at 100 Today!

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