Mark Turner has been a frequent and significant presence on ECM recordings with Enrico Rava, the Billy Hart Quartet, the cooperative Fly trio (with Jeff Ballard and Larry Grenadier), Stefano Bollani and, most recently, Ethan Iverson, on the duo recording Temporary Kings. Albums under Turner’s leadership, however, have been rare and Return from the Stars is the first recording to feature his quartet since 2014’s Lathe of Heaven.
Turner’s writing on this release allows the musicians plenty of space in which to move. Solos flow organically out of the arrangements and, beneath the dazzling interplay of Turner’s tenor and Jason Palmer’s trumpet, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Jonathan Pinson often roam freely. The absence of a chordal instrument keeps the possibilities in the music wide open, as the compositions modulate between structure and freedom.
“My process in writing is that I write for the people playing,” he says. “I don’t like to say a lot to them about the compositions. I like to write a piece of music and know that the people I’ve chosen are going to play it, basically, the way they play. I’d rather they find themselves in the music. The tunes are written in such a way that each musician has a choice in terms of how they take care of what they’re supposed to be doing. There are parts written for the horns. Not so much is written for the rhythm section, except for a few ‘hits’ and maybe time changes in sections. I just give guidelines about how the section should feel and then I let bass and drums figure out how to do it. Whatever makes the rhythm section sound good, that’s what we do. Then, the horns will play on top of that. “
Bassist Joe Martin is the sole musician retained from the Lathe of Heaven line-up. Turner met drummer Jonathan Pinson while playing with Israeli guitarist Gilad Hekselman’s group. Pinson has had an impressive career to date touring with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Greg Osby while still in his early twenties. His résumé also includes work with Kamasi Washington, Ambrose Akinmusire, Dave Liebman and many others. Pinson makes his ECM debut with Return from the Stars, as does trumpeter Jason Palmer.
Palmer and Mark Turner first encountered each other as sidemen in bands a decade ago. Mark subsequently played in projects led by the trumpeter, also recording in some of his projects (Places, Rhyme and Reason and The Concert).
Return from the Stars takes its title from Stanisław Lem’s science fiction novel in which an astronaut returns from an exploratory space mission to find life on earth greatly changed, and his own values out of step with those of a conformist, risk-averse society. Turner’s sci-fi enthusiasms are well known, and some observers have perceived a kind of idiomatic ‘time travelling’ quality in his work: The Guardian described his ECM quartet album Lathe of Heaven (named after an Ursula K. Le Guin story) as “sounding like Birth of the Cool floated over a 21st-century rhythmic concept.”
Return from the Stars was recorded at New York’s Sear Sound Studio and mixed at Studios La Buissonne, in Southern France. The album was produced by Manfred Eicher.
ECM 2684 CD: 6024 3842871 7 Release: March 25, 2022
To be featured on World of Jazz 484 on April 10, 2022