Fly at the Jazz Standard

I caught Fly—the trio consisting of Mark Turner on tenor and soprano saxophones, Larry Grenadier on bass, and Jeff Ballard on drums—at the Jazz Standard Thursday night.

It’s an odd name for a jazz band, but it fits their music to a T: airy, breezy, turning loop-the-loops or just coasting through the clouds, defying gravity, but almost nonchalantly. There is no noticeable center in this trio—the three players form the points of a truly equilateral triangle—yet the machinery holds together, riveting yet seemingly effortless, and it’s a bit of a mystery how.

The music is cool but not too casual, low-key but never mellow.

Turner blows in a dark, rich tone with supple phrasing, something like Sonny Rollins channeling Lee Konitz. Grenadier and Ballard, longtime staples in pianist Brad Mehldau’s trio, provide ballast while perpetually adjusting to, and driving, Turner’s melodic flow—a tough trick to pull off without a piano or guitar to lay down chords.

Fly plays at the Standard through Sunday. Their latest CD, Sky & Country, on the ECM label, was one of the best of 2009.