February 17, 2000
If jazz guitar isn't your cup of tea, maybe you'd preferthe jazz saxophone of Ohio native Mark Turner. Ballad Session is Turner's fourth release on Warner Brothers Records. His previous effort, In This World, was an energetic collection, but Ballad Session, as the title indicates, is slow and emotional. It's contemporary jazz with a distinctly classic feel; it's fresh without being lightweight.
Turner describes Ballad Session as "bright, yet dark,"and that's not nearly as contradictory as it seems. The songs are optimistic and romantic, but they're also smoky and moody. Turner ã along with Kurt Rosenwinkel on guitar, Kevin Hays on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass (see review above for more Grenadier) and Brian Blade on drums ã float through the songs with a smoothness that will bring a tear to your eye (if you're the emotional type).
In selecting the album's songs, Turner looked to the classics. The record kicks off with "I Loves You Porgy" from George and Ira Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, and Hoagy Carmichael is represented with the beautiful "Skylark." Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti" is one of Turner's favorites, and he included the Arthur Altman/Jack Lawrence tune, "All Or Nothing At All" both to provide a more upbeat number and give himself a chance to pay tribute to one of his biggest influences, John Coltrane, who included the song on his 1962 Ballads record.
Ballad Session is fine atmospheric jazz for music lovers who want to set a mood without resorting to the overly fluffy stylings of other contemporary saxophonists. Turner delivers true emotion in the classic style.
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